USA: Punitive damages to Seamen due to unseaworthiness


In a very interesting en banc decision, the Supreme Court of the State of Washington ruled that seamen are entitled to seek punitive damages when their alleged injuries are due in part to an unseaworthy condition on their vessel in circumstances indicating at least recklessness on the part of the vessel owner.

The court noted that unseaworthiness actions arise in common law and that punitive damages are available in common law. There is no US Supreme Court decision on point and the court declined to follow federal appellate decisions to the contrary.

Tabingo v. American Triumph LLC, No. 92913-1 (Wash., March 9, 2017)

Click on below image to download Court decision.


Source: Washington State Supreme Court







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  1. An interesting illustration of US common law which provides for punitive damages. Not so for the common law of England and Commonwealth jurisdictions that do not entitle punitive damages in relation to civil/commercial claims. As a question, what is the civil law of countries such as France, Germany or China on the issue of any entitlement by claimants to both restitution as well as punitive damages?