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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:The facts, as alleged in the court of appeals’ opinion, are as follows: Rickey Brown injured his back in August 1988 while lifting a sack of corn. Ten months later, in the medical questionnaire to go along with his application to work as a seaman for LeTourneau Inc., Brown stated “no” to the question of whether he had ever suffered from “back trouble.” LeTourneau hired Brown, who said he injured his back again nearly a year later. LeTourneau fired Brown for falsely reporting an on-the-job accident, filing a false accident claim and failing to disclose his 1998 back injury. Two months later, in August 2000, Brown applied to work at Parker Drilling Offshore Corp. On the medical questionnaire that asked whether he had “past or present back and neck trouble,” Brown checked the “no” option. Parker hired Brown. Eight months later, Brown told his supervisor that he felt back pain while performing a procedure on the drilling rig. During its investigation into Brown’s injury, Parker suspected that Brown’s back injury was not sustained aboard the vessel and that Brown willfully concealed his prior injuries. Parker, therefore, withheld maintenance and cure benefits. Brown sued Parker, and a jury verdict was returned in his favor. The jury found that Brown was injured due to Parker’s negligence; that Brown was entitled to maintenance and cure because he did not willfully conceal his medical condition; and that Brown was entitled to compensatory damages because of Parker’s wrongful withholding of his maintenance and cure benefits. The district court entered judgment against Parker for $414,840. On appeal, Parker argues that Brown did willfully conceal his medical condition, which would justify the company’s withholding of maintenance and cure benefits. Parker also argues that its withholding of maintenance and cure benefits was reasonable. HOLDING:Vacated and dismissed with prejudice. The first element Parker must establish in proving willful concealment is that Brown intentionally misrepresented or concealed medical facts. The court finds that three facts tend to show that Brown knew at the time he completed his Parker application that his injuries constituted “back trouble”: 1. Brown had been twice treated for back injuries prior to filling out the Parker application form; 2. he had been fired from LeTourneau in part for falsely reporting that he had not had prior back trouble; and 3. Brown misstated during his deposition that he never sought medical care while working at LeTourneau. Brown responds that the question on the Parker questionnaire was confusing because it was a compound, asking if he had experienced back and neck trouble. As Brown did not raise this argument at the trial level, the court finds it waived. Nonetheless, even though noting that the question is “arguably ambiguous,” the court finds that a jury could not have rationally inferred that Brown did not lie on his questionnaire since he acknowledged at trial the reasons he was fired from LeTourneau. Brown also responds that he did not understand that the nature of his injuries constituted “trouble,” which he thought meant a broken disc or neck. The court points to Brown’s testimony on cross-examination that he was fired for LeTourneau for his “back trouble.” The court thus rules that Brown recognized at some point before the Parker questionnaire that his minor injuries � pulled muscles and back strains � rose to the level of “back trouble” in the eyes of a past employer. The court notes that the district court made much of Brown’s status as a special education student with a nonconfrontational demeanor who was subject to rigorous cross-examination at trial. The court states that the jury may not have believed Brown’s testimony for the very reasons cited by the court, so when he said on cross examination that he was fired for his “back trouble,” he may not have really known that it was. Nonetheless, his understanding of the circumstances surrounding his termination from LeTourneau is enough to show that he understood what was meant by “back trouble.” The second element Parker must establish to prove willful concealment is that the non-disclosed facts were material to its decision to hire Brown. The third element Parker must establish is that a connection exists between the withheld information and the injury Brown complained of in his lawsuit. The court finds both of these elements clearly established at trial. “Parker established at trial: (1) Brown’s intent to conceal his medical condition; (2) that the non-disclosed facts were material to the employer’s decision to hire the claimant; and (3) a connection existed between the withheld information and the injury complained of in the lawsuit. As a result, the judgment of the district court that Brown is entitled to maintenance and cure benefits should be reversed.” The court next considers whether the jury clearly erred when it found Parker’s withholding of maintenance and cure benefits was unreasonable. Parker says it didn’t pay maintenance and cure because Brown willfully concealed his prior medical condition, and because Brown’s injury was not sustained on Parker’s vessel. The court finds reversal merited based on the first reason. OPINION:Clement, J.; DeMoss, Stewart and Clement, JJ. DISSENT:Stewart, CJ. The dissent thinks the majority opinion improperly substitutes its judgment for that of the jury. The dissent says Parker’s arguments are based on its interpretation of the evidence in the light most favorable to its case, which is not the standard that should be applied on appellate review. Instead, the record must be reviews in the light most favorable to Brown. “Verdicts based on a jury’s fact findings, which appellate courts may not agree with, are rendered across this nation almost everyday, and yet, the verdicts are sustained because appellate courts have a legal duty to uphold such verdicts when the record reveals legally sufficient evidence to so.”

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