When drafting a settlement agreement, the parties almost always have competing interests. The Plaintiff will push for a vaguely-worded settlement in an attempt to take another “bite-at-the-apple” down the road; the Defendant will push for a broad, all-encompassing release of liability (i.e., “any and all claims”) in an attempt to “close-the-books” on the Plaintiff’s claims. Sometimes, the parties will compromise by executing a settlement agreement which falls somewhere in the middle. However, both parties should be aware that compromises made during the settlement negotiations can lead to unintended consequences down the road.

In Cooper v. Intern. Offshore Services, LLC, 2009 WL 5175216 (E.D. La. Dec. 17, 2009), aff’d, 2010 WL 3034497 (5th Cir. Aug. 3, 2010), the Plaintiff sustained injuries while working on a ramp connected to a vessel owned by his employer, International Marine. International Marine thereafter paid the Plaintiff benefits pursuant to the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (“LHWCA”). After the Plaintiff recovered from his injuries, he agreed to settle his claim for “compensation” against International Marine. The text of the settlement agreement stated that the Plaintiff released International Marine from “any and all obligations […] for any benefits under the LHWCA” as a result of his accident. Id. at *2. Under § 908(i), all settlements of compensation benefits must be submitted to the District Director for approval.Continue Reading A Recent U.S. Fifth Circuit Decision Shows the Importance of Including a Release of “Any and All Claims” in a Settlement Agreement

It is a fairly common practice for individuals purchasing pleasure yachts to take calculated steps to minimize sales taxes on their purchases. In fact, a simple “Google” search on the subject reveals many websites offering free advice on this issue. One of the tactics suggested by several websites seems fairly simple: instead of the individual purchasing the yacht, the individual forms a corporation, and the corporation purchases the yacht.
Continue Reading Structuring the Purchase of a Vessel Through a Corporate Entity for Tax Purposes Can Have Unintended Consequences

It is well known that a seaman who is injured on the job can file suit against his employer in negligence due to the statutory provisions of the Jones Act. 45 U.S.C.A §§ 30104.  However, in a Jones Act suit, the injured seaman is prohibited from recovering “non-pecuniary” damages from his employer, a category which includes punitive damages and loss of consortium. (1).  This limitation on recoverable damages is due to the language of Jones Act itself. Miles v. Apex, 498 U.S. 19 (1990).

In addition to bringing claims against his employer pursuant to the Jones Act, a seaman injured on the job often also files claims against non-employers. These claims are not dependant on the Jones Act, but rather general maritime law. In this situation, plaintiffs often attempt to recover non-pecuniary damages from the non-employer. Plaintiffs suggest that since there is no specific prohibition against the recovery of non-pecuniary damages in general maritime law, then why should an injured seaman be denied recovering non-pecuniary damages from non-employers?Continue Reading A Jones Act Seaman Does Not Have Greater Remedies Against A Non-Employer Than He Does Against His Employer