Court granted certiorari today in two cases of interest to the business
Maritime Law—Punitive Damages
Miles v. Apex Marine Corp., 498 U.S. 19 (1990), the Supreme Court held
that certain non-pecuniary losses are not recoverable in general maritime
wrongful-death actions. The lower courts have since divided over whether
Miles precludes a seaman’s recovery of punitive damages under general
maritime law for willful failure to pay “maintenance and cure” (which
includes medical care, a living allowance, and wages). The Supreme Court
granted certiorari in Atlantic Sounding Co., Inc. v. Townsend, No.
08-214, to resolve the conflict.
in this case is of vital importance to businesses that operate under
maritime law. The Court’s decision will determine whether such businesses
are subject to punitive liability for willful failure to pay maintenance and
cure, and it may establish broader principles governing the availability of
non-pecuniary damages under general maritime law.
respondent in Atlantic Sounding Co. allegedly sustained injuries as
a result of a fall on a tugboat. He filed suit, alleging, among other
things, a willful failure to pay maintenance and cure and seeking punitive
damages on that claim. The petitioners moved to strike the request for
punitive damages, arguing that they were precluded by Miles. The
district court denied the motion but certified the question for review on
interlocutory appeal. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, deeming itself bound by
a prior decision of that court and rejecting the petitioners’ argument that
the prior decision had been abrogated by Miles.
extensions, amicus briefs in support of the petitioners will be due on
December 26, 2008, and amicus briefs in support of the respondent will be
due on January 27, 2009. Any questions about this case should be directed to
Himmelfarb (+1 202 263 3035) in our Washington, D.C. office.
6, 2008, the Supreme Court invited the Solicitor General to file briefs
expressing the views of the United States in two cases of interest to the
Albertson’s, Inc. v. Kanter, No. 07-1327. The question presented is
whether private parties’ state-law claims to enforce the requirements of the
Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. § 301 et seq., are
preempted by Congress’ mandate that the Act be enforced only by the federal
government or state governments.
Trainer Wortham & Co. v. Betz, No. 07-1489. This case presents two
related questions: whether the statute of limitations for securities fraud
begins to run when the plaintiff receives evidence that her investment
advisor intended to defraud her, rather than when the plaintiff is on
inquiry notice that there may have been a misrepresentation or when a
reasonable investigation would have revealed that the plaintiff had a
possible fraud claim; and whether a plaintiff who is on inquiry notice that
she has a basis for a fraud claim may reasonably end her investigation
because the suspected defrauders have made assurances that contradict known