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SEIFRIED v. MON RIVER TOWING

March 14, 1974

Morris SEIFRIED
v.
MON RIVER TOWING, INC.


Snyder, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SNYDER

SNYDER, District Judge.

 This Court held a Non-Jury Trial on an action filed by the Plaintiff which contained two claims. The first claim was for Maintenance and Cure for an illness sustained while in the service of the Defendant's vessel, and in the second claim Plaintiff sought damages for breach of an oral agreement to include the Plaintiff in the Pension Plan of the Defendant Company. As these matters are entirely separate, they will be considered seriatim.

 DISCUSSION

 The testimony was clear, and the Court so finds, that the Plaintiff was an employee of the Defendant. He served as a Pilot and/or Master on various of owned by the Defendant and operated by it on the Ohio and Monongehela Rivers. Plaintiff began his employment for the Defendant as a Relief Captain on July 28, 1965. He became ill (depressed) on October 26, 1970 and did not return to work until April 22, 1971. He continued to work until September 21, 1971 at which time he left work because of his illness. This illness has continued until the present time. The parties stipulated that the claim for Maintenance and Cure is based on the rate of $8.00 per day, for a total of $8,208.00 (1,026 days). These figures include 179 days between October 26, 1970 and April 22, 1971, at $8.00 per day or the sum of $1,432.00, and 847 days from September 21, 1971 through the closing of the trial on January 15, 1974, at $8.00 per day or the sum of $6,776.00.

 Mr. Seifried went into the Maritime Service in 1928 when he was eighteen years of age. He worked continuously until he became ill on October 26, 1970 with the nervous condition and had to "get off the boat". He had gone to work with Mon River Towing, Inc. on July 28, 1965 and first began to notice the illness about a year before it affected him in such a way that he felt he had to stop working.

 Approximately four days after becoming ill, on November 3, 1970, he went to the United States Public Health Service and received various medications and consultations. At that time there was a recommendation that he be sent to the United States Public Health Service Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland for complete evaluation. The Hospital records indicate that the patient (Seifried) elected to be evaluated by his own private doctor, Doctor Silverblatt. Mr. Seifried testified that he was not getting along very well at the Public Health Service Hospital, and on the recommendation of his son, he decided to go to Doctor Silverblatt.

 Despite this, in April of 1972, the Doctor advised Seifried to return to work. However, Seifried did not return to work and did not see the Doctor again until July of 1972. At that time Seifried did not appear to be excessively depressed, but the Doctor indicated that his impression was that Seifried could not withstand the stress of going back to the particular type of work he had been doing. The Doctor did not see him again until January of 1973. The Doctor noted at that time that he was doing reasonably well, but was still unable to return to work. He was seen again in June of 1973 and the Doctor noted he was having periods of hyperactivity when he would do everything at a very fast pace. This seemed to be a deterioration of his condition from earlier in the year. In particular it indicated a reduced ability to handle even minimal stress. The Doctor continued to see Seifried throughout 1973, and in October of that year, finally came to the conclusion that Seifried was not capable of working at anything. The Doctor expected to have to see Mr. Seifried every two or three months, probably for the rest of his life, in order to keep the situation under control. The final diagnosis was of a manic-depressive illness which was thought to be of a permanent nature.

 Seifried entered the Public Health Service Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, where he was a patient from November 9, 1973 to November 30, 1973. He was given a complete physical examination, a great many laboratory tests, and underwent neurological evaluation. The diagnosis was again that of a manic-depressive psychosis, and the conclusion was reached that there was very little that could be done for Seifried except to structure and minimize the confusion that the patient was experiencing. It was noted that he was discharged as being unfit for duty and his condition was to be followed up in the Pittsburgh Out-Patient Clinic, which was the nearest Public Health Service facility.

 I. MAINTENANCE AND CURE.

 The Defendant in this case recognized the duty of the vessel and her owner to provide Maintenance and Cure for Seamen injured or falling ill while in the service of the vessel. Calmar S.S. Corp. v. Taylor, 303 U.S. 525, 528, 58 S. Ct. 651, 82 L. Ed. 993 (1938); Lipari v. Maritime Overseas Corporation, 493 F.2d 207 (3rd Cir. 1974); Neff v. Dravo Corporation, 407 F.2d 228 (3rd Cir. 1969); Sobosle v. United States Steel Corporation, 359 F.2d 7 (3rd Cir. 1966). The Defendant, however, claims that it is entitled to a credit for disability benefits and medical expenses paid by Travelers Insurance Company under a group insurance policy. The Defendant further contends that the Plaintiff is not entitled to maintenance during the period of time when he was hospitalized, or when he was living with relatives during a fifteen day period in 1971 when he visited his daughter in Sun Valley, Idaho, or during a second visit of thirty-five days in July and August of 1973.

 With respect to the amounts paid by Travelers Insurance Company, it was stipulated that the total amount of medical bills incurred by the Plaintiff was $5,996.95, of which Travelers Insurance Company had paid $4,966.05. The Plaintiff claims the amount of $5,966.95 for cure while the Defendant claims that the Plaintiff is entitled only to $1,033.90.

 The Plaintiff stands on the proposition that the Defendant is not entitled to take credit for the amounts paid by Travelers Insurance Company since such payments represent collateral source benefits, or in the alternative, that they are not to be applied against the claim for Maintenance and Cure.

 The Plaintiff would have us start with the well known proposition that the Court is the guardian of the Seaman, and all doubts, if any, must be resolved in favor of the ward of the Admiralty. Citing: U.S. Bulk Carriers v. Arguelles, 400 U.S. 351, 91 S. Ct. 409, 27 L. Ed. 2d 456 (1971). Arguelles involved a suit by a Seaman for wages allegedly due him and he was permitted to recover over the contention by the defendants that Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act prevented such a suit. This Court adopts this as basic to the problem, but the question remains as to the effect of the payment by Travelers Insurance Company.

 The Defendant, Mon River Towing, Inc., was a named insured in a group policy (together with other affiliated companies). In this policy all of the premiums were paid solely by the company, except that the Dependents Insurance was to be on a contributory basis. Dependents Insurance did provide for the employee's wife and all unmarried children over fourteen days and under nineteen years of age, residing in the United States. All employees whose employment commenced on or before January 1, 1968, and who were not employed on a part-time or intermittent basis, were qualified to participate.

 The only case to which Defendants have called the Court's attention is Thomas v. Humble Oil & Refining Company, 420 F.2d 793 (4th Cir. 1970) which involved a claim for maintenance and a denial by Humble on the basis that Humble had a private disability plan which paid Thomas more than the maintenance allowance. In that case there was a voluntary organization designated as the Esso Seamen's Association and certified by the National Labor Relations Board in Humble's operation as the representative of the unlicensed personnel such as Thomas. A Collective Bargaining Agreement was in force between the Association and the Company which recognized Humble's private disability plan for which no contribution was exacted from the employees. The Crew's Articles embraced its terms and were signed by Thomas each time he sailed on a Humble vessel. The Bargaining Agreement stipulated, among other things, that maintenance should not be paid concurrently with the payments under the disability benefit plan unless the maintenance was in excess of the plan's payments, in which case the $8.00 rate was to apply.

 The Court in the Thomas case held that the agreement together with the plan it incorporated did not pretend to provide for the payment of wages. The Court then stated in affirming the action of the District Court in dismissing the libel on the basis that Thomas had in effect been paid in full, as follows (at p. 794):

 
True, every employee ashore participates in the disability plan. Nevertheless, the privilege of others did not pinch Thomas' enjoyment of maintenance. Nor did the circumstance that once he was paid nothing for a month and was told that he must 'come down and sign a paper [before he] could get any money'. This occurrence does not prove the plan a deprivation of maintenance.
 
It is objected, further, that Humble under the plan deducted for a biweekly period a thrift contribution of $27.44, a thrift fund loan of $30.14, $6.65 towards an annuity contract. It is not suggested that these items were permitted to diminish or in any degree encroach upon maintenance. Thomas' brief complains that the company can suspend benefits for employee fault, change of address, failure to release the employer, or employee failure to do anything the employer requires. However, it points to no instance when these reservations were enforced or were applied to curtail maintenance.
 
Thomas acknowledges he has received all benefits payable to him under the plan and agreement. But he wants this and maintenance too. As previously noted, the plan and agreement do not provide for wages. They assure maintenance and possible extras. These ...

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