FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
RHODE ISLAND [Hon. John J. McConnell, Jr., U.S. District
P. Powers, with whom Michael R. Byrne and Melick &
Porter, LLP were on brief, for appellant.
Maurice J. Cusick, with whom Vincent M. Morgera was on brief,
Barron, Selya and Stahl, Circuit Judges.
maritime personal injury case, the district court awarded the
plaintiff compensatory damages for past and future harms
totaling nearly $1, 500, 000. Adding insult to injury, the
court tacked on prejudgment interest at the Rhode Island
state rate of 12% per annum and entered judgment in the
plaintiff's favor for $2, 318, 487. The defendant
appeals, challenging both the damages award and the
prejudgment interest increment.
careful consideration, we find the award of damages to be
unimpugnable. The award of prejudgment interest, though,
presents greater complications: with respect to that award,
we tackle a question of first impression within this circuit
and, following the resolution of that question, affirm the
interest award in part and reverse it in part. The tale
rehearse the relevant facts as found by the district court,
see Nevor v. Moneypenny Holdings, LLC, 2016 WL
183906 (D.R.I. Jan. 14, 2016), consistent with record
support. Plaintiff-appellee Kenneth Nevor was once a
professional sailor. His experience included sailing, racing,
and transporting racing yachts. His skillset extended to
maintaining and repairing sailboats, their mechanical
equipment, and their electronic gear.
began sailing as a boy and - by the age of 35 - had
participated in a number of elite racing events worldwide. At
the time of the mishap giving rise to this action, Nevor was
an employee of defendant-appellant Moneypenny Holdings, LLC
(Moneypenny), which owned a 52-foot sailing vessel called the
Vesper and a 35-foot motor support vessel called the Odd Job.
March of 2011, Nevor was part of a crew preparing the Vesper
for a regatta in the Caribbean. The Vesper was travelling in
the British Virgin Islands when the members of the crew
learned that they - but not the boat - needed to return to
St. Thomas to clear customs. To facilitate this process, the
Odd Job met the Vesper with a view toward carrying some
crewmembers back to shore. When the Odd Job pulled up
alongside the Vesper, the Vesper's captain directed some
of the crew (including Nevor) to transfer from the Vesper to
the Odd Job. The wind was blowing at between eight and twelve
knots - normal for that time of year - but the sea was
choppy. Still, the captain did not lash the Odd Job and
Vesper together before proceeding with the transfer.
Nevor disembarked the Vesper to board the Odd Job, the boats
separated. Nevor slipped, grasping the Vesper's lifeline
as he reached for the Odd Job with his foot. He was able to
complete the transfer, but the stress on his right arm caused
his bicep to tear from the bone.
stayed with the Vesper for two weeks after his injury to
assist with race preparations. He then returned stateside to
undergo surgery. Once the operation was performed, he
completed six months of physical therapy. Even after he had
finished the prescribed course of therapy, his treating
physician found residual atrophy in the reattached muscle.
Several months later, Nevor visited another specialist who
determined that Nevor's right arm remained weaker than
his left and was unlikely to improve. This specialist
concluded that Nevor could not do the heavy lifting that his
previous job demanded.
of 2013, Nevor invoked admiralty jurisdiction, see
28 U.S.C. § 1333, and sued Moneypenny in Rhode
Island's federal district court. His complaint alleged
negligence under the Jones Act, see 46 U.S.C.
§§ 30101-30106, and unseaworthiness under general
a four-day bench trial, the district court wrote a thorough
and closely reasoned rescript stating its findings of fact
and conclusions of law. The court awarded Nevor $1, 460, 458
in damages ($710, 458 for loss of earnings and loss of future
earning capacity and $750, 000 for pain, suffering, and
mental anguish). See Nevor, 2016 WL 183906, at *7.
The court subsequently granted Nevor's motion to add
prejudgment interest to the damages award. This increment,
which totaled $858, 029, brought the aggregate judgment to
$2, 318, 487 (plus costs).
consolidated appeals ensued. In them, Moneypenny concedes
liability but challenges several of the monetary components
of the judgment.
claims of error fall into two broad categories. First, it
offers various reasons why the award of damages should be
deemed excessive. Second, it assails the prejudgment interest
award as totally inappropriate and, alternatively, says that
no prejudgment interest should accrue on damages for future
harm. We address these claims sequentially.
opening salvo, Moneypenny blasts the district court's
stated basis for awarding economic damages (lost wages and
prospective loss of earning capacity). In its words, the
court's factual findings were "clearly
erroneous" and "premised on inadmissible
aftermath of a bench trial, we review the district
court's factual findings for clear error. See
Reliance Steel Prods. Co. v. Nat'l Fire Ins. Co.,
880 F.2d 575, 576 (1st Cir. 1989). We will set aside those
findings "only if, on the entire evidence, we are left
with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been
committed." Id. (citation omitted). Whether we
would have reached the same result as the district court is
not the issue: "[w]here there are two permissible views
of the evidence, the factfinder's choice between them
cannot be clearly erroneous." Id. at 577
(quoting Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, 470 U.S.
564, 574 (1985)).
deferential standard of review applies with unabated force
when a district court's findings depend wholly or in part
on expert testimony. When judges act as factfinders, they are
given "considerable leeway in choosing among the views
of experts and in determining the weight and value to be
assigned to the ...