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Block Island Fishing, Inc. v. Rogers

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 3, 2016

BLOCK ISLAND FISHING, INC.
v.
JAMIE ROGERS

          For Block Island Fishing, Inc., Plaintiff: Thomas J Muzyka, Kirby L. Aarsheim, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Clinton & Muzyka, P.C., Boston, MA.

         For Jamie Rogers, Defendant: David F. Anderson, LEAD ATTORNEY, Latti & Anderson LLP, Boston, MA.

         For Jamie Rogers, Counter Claimant: David F. Anderson, LEAD ATTORNEY, Latti & Anderson LLP, Boston, MA.

         For Block Island Fishing, Inc., Counter Defendant: Thomas J Muzyka, Kirby L. Aarsheim, LEAD ATTORNEY, Clinton & Muzyka, P.C., Boston, MA.

Page 215

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         Richard G. Stearns, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Block Island Fishing, Inc., owns and operates the fishing vessel Hedy Brenna. Jamie Rogers is a commercial fisherman and former employee of Block Island who was injured while working on board the Hedy Brenna in October of 2013. This dispute is over an admiralty doctrine known as " maintenance and cure." Maintenance and cure is " designed to provide a seaman with food and lodging when he becomes sick or injured in the ship's service; and it extends during the period when he is incapacitated to do a seaman's work and continues until he reaches maximum medical recovery." Vaughan v. Atkinson, 369 U.S. 527, 531, 82 S.Ct. 997, 8 L.Ed.2d 88 (1962).

         The essential facts, viewed in the light most plausible to Rogers as the nonmoving party, are as follows.

         In August of 2013, Rogers moved with his wife, two children, and brother-in-law into a single-family home in Bristol, Rhode Island. Rogers paid the first month's rent of $1,600, but cannot recall making subsequent payments. In September of 2013, Rogers joined the crew of the Hedy Brenna. On October 3, 2013, during a fishing voyage, Rogers fell off the top bunk while sleeping and injured his torso. On returning to port, Rogers was diagnosed and treated for a fractured rib. During October, Block Island paid Rogers $650 in

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maintenance and $1,857.78 in lost wages (in addition to his catch share from the October voyage).

         In November, Rogers was evicted from the Bristol apartment and moved with his family to a less expensive apartment in Fall River, Massachusetts, where he paid $625 in monthly rent. On November 4, 2013, Dr. Christian Campos, Rogers's treating physician, cleared Rogers to " return to work without restrictions." Dkt. # 44-6. However, in December of 2013, Rogers was diagnosed with pneumonia and admitted to hospital for three weeks. On February 20, 2014, Dr. Campos reported that Rogers's condition was improving, and while he still required the use of pain medication, he could increase his level of physical activity " without restrictions." Dkt. # 44-13. In March of 2014, Rogers left the Fall River apartment and moved to Sparta, Tennessee, where he lived with his brother, to whom he paid $800 each month in lieu of rent.

         In May or June of 2014, Rogers purchased a 38-foot boat for $2,500, on which he lived briefly before returning in June to Fall River. On June 19, 2014, Rogers was examined by Dr. Melanie Cardoza for pain in his lower back and left leg. Rogers reported that he had returned from a fishing trip the previous day, and that he was planning another fishing trip the following day. By July of 2014, Rogers was captaining the fishing vessel Kelly Ann. However, in August of 2014, Dr. Campos examined Rogers and provided him with a letter indicating that he was not yet fit to return to work as a fisherman. On November 18, 2014, Dr. Campos examined Rogers and concluded that his condition had improved to the point that no " further formal follow-up" was necessary. Dkt. # 44-37.

         The dispute over maintenance and cure involves nine months of back and forth correspondence between Neil Stoddard, an agent for Block Island, and Daniel Alberto, a paralegal at Latti & Anderson, the firm representing Rogers. The sticking point was Rogers's claimed expenditures for rent. On January 24, 2014, Alberto made a demand on Rogers's behalf of maintenance and cure in the amount of $72 per day, listing Rogers's monthly expenses as $1,600 for rent, $119.25 for gas, $61.28 for electricity, and $362.50 for food. In the exchange that followed, Stoddard objected that the " cash receipts" he had been provided " have nothing on them to identify them as a rent payment and I find it hard to believe that there is no sort of written agreement between your client and his landlord." Dkt. # 44-14. On March 27, 2014, Alberto mailed Stoddard a copy of the lease of the Bristol apartment.[1] When Stoddard further objected after learning that Rogers had moved from Bristol to Fall River, Alberto replied ...


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