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Media Alerts - Boudreaux v. Transocean Deepwater, Inc. - Fifth Circuit
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March 15, 2013
  Boudreaux v. Transocean Deepwater, Inc. - Fifth Circuit
Headline: Fifth Circuit declines to recognize new cause of action against seamen in maritime cases.

Area of Law: Maritime law, Admiralty law

Issue Presented: Whether an employer who establishes a defense to liability for work-related injuries by demonstrating that a seaman misrepresented relevant medical history in obtaining employment may automatically recover previously paid benefits in a counterclaim.

Brief Summary: Five months after being hired by Transocean Deepwater, Inc., seaman Wallace Boudreaux claimed his back was injured on the job and obtained benefits from Transocean. After several years, Boudreaux sued Transocean to obtain further benefits. Transocean discovered that Boudreaux had failed to disclose information about a previous back injury when he applied for employment, and this discovery provided a defense to liability under a rule known as the McCorpen doctrine. On this basis, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana granted summary judgment to Transocean on Boudreaux's claim and also granted summary judgment to Transocean on its counterclaim for restitution of the past benefits. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed, declining to hold that every successful McCorpen defense generates a cause of action permitting the employer to recover benefits previously paid to the seaman. The Court cited two reasons: first, recognizing the cause of action would be contrary to the purpose of maritime law, which is to protect seamen; and second, an employer who establishes the defense does not necessarily demonstrate the seaman possesses the same level of intent required for common law fraud. A dissenting judge would have recognized the employer's claim for restitution.

For the full opinion, please see:

Significance: The Fifth Circuit declined to recognize a new cause of action, even though the Ninth Circuit implicitly recognized it several years ago.

Panel: Circuit Judges Higginbotham, Clement, and Haynes

Argument Date: 12/04/2012

Date of Issued Opinion: 3/14/2013

Docket Number: No. 12-30041

Decided: Reversed and rendered

Case Alert Author: Ward Goolsby

Counsel: Wynn E. Clark for Plaintiff-Appellee Wallace Boudreaux. John Anthony Scialdone, Fowler Rodriguez Valdez-Fauli, for Defendant-Appellee Transocean Deepwater, Inc.

Author of Opinion: Judge Higginbotham (dissent by Judge Clement)

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Aaron-Andrew P. Bruhl

    Posted By: Aaron Bruhl @ 03/15/2013 01:47 PM     5th Circuit  

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