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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:In October 1999, Nautical hired Jon Anthony Jauch through labor supplier Crew Services Inc. to work as a deckhand on its oceangoing tug, the M/V La Madonna. In connection with his employment application, Jauch underwent a physical examination and completed a medical history questionnaire. On that questionnaire, Jauch indicated that he had never had back, neck or spine trouble or received chiropractic treatment. In fact, Jauch had injured his back several times, most recently in a work-related incident six months earlier, after which he sought treatment from both an orthopedist and a chiropractor and filed a workers’ compensation claim. Jauch also denied ever having any mental health issues despite his lengthy history of psychiatric treatment. The physician that conducted Jauch’s pre-employment physical examination testified that Jauch, had he responded truthfully to the medical history questionnaire, would not have been cleared to work until he provided documentation of his earlier injuries and Nautical conducted additional evaluation. An operations manager for Nautical also testified that Crew Services typically notifies Nautical if a potential employee has disclosed a history of physical or mental problems, at which point Nautical investigates further before hiring the applicant. Having no reason to doubt Jauch’s fitness for service, Crew Services cleared him to join the crew of the M/V La Madonna immediately after he completed his physical examination. One week later, Jauch was injured while assisting the tug’s captain and two other crew members move the vessel’s johnboat ashore for maintenance. The johnboat was lashed to the rail of the vessel’s second deck and had to be lowered to the first deck before being moved. Jauch was not specifically instructed as to the proper procedure for lowering the johnboat but attempted to follow the captain’s lead. He and the captain released the lines securing the johnboat on the second deck while the other crew members stood on the first deck waiting to take the boat, which weighed less than 100 pounds. At some point, the line that Jauch held slipped and he was pulled forward by the weight of the boat, injuring his back. In the days following the accident, Jauch’s pain worsened, and he sought medical care. Nautical arranged for Jauch to see an orthopedist who diagnosed and treated his injury as a lumbosacral strain. After that orthopedist discharged him as having reached maximum medical improvement, Jauch continued to complain of back pain. He sought care from a series of doctors and eventually underwent lumbar disc fusion surgery in May of 2002. Jauch filed suit against Nautical in April 2001 in the Eastern District of Louisiana, asserting claims for maintenance and cure under general maritime law and for damages under the Jones Act. A bench trial was conducted in April 2003 and the court rendered a judgment in favor of Jauch, awarding him $61,828.84 for past medical expenses, $10,000 for future medical expenses, $44,619.24 for past wage loss, $16,094.08 for future wage loss, and $250,000 for general damages. The district court apportioned fault equally between Jauch and Nautical and declined to award Jauch prejudgment interest. Accordingly, the district court ordered Nautical to pay Jauch $191,271.08. Jauch contended that the district court erred by 1. denying his claim for maintenance and cure benefits; 2. finding that his failure to take proper care in lowering the johnboat rendered him 50 percent at fault for the accident; 3. awarding him $61,828.84 for past medical expenses when he submitted bills at trial totaling $85,165.12; and 4. denying him prejudgment interest. In its cross-appeal, Nautical contended that the district court erred in finding it 50 percent at fault and awarding Jauch any damages for medical expenses. HOLDING:Affirmed in part, vacated and remanded in part. The court found that Jauch was required to undergo a physical examination and complete a medical questionnaire specifically designed to elicit information about past injuries or health problems. Jauch, the court stated, concealed numerous instances of back injury and mental health problems, disclosure of which would have either prevented his employment, or at least delayed it, thus preventing his presence on the M/V La Madonna at the time of the accident. The district court’s application of prior admiralty case law to bar Jauch’s recovery of maintenance and cure was unassailable, the court held. Examining the Jones Act claim separately, the court rejected both Jauch’s and Nautical’s points of error on that issue. There was ample evidence, the court stated, to support a conclusion that 1. Jauch was negligent in failing to remain attentive to his task and failing to secure his rope while lowering the johnboat; and 2. Nautical was negligent in failing to instruct Jauch on the proper procedure for lowering the boat. The district court had the best opportunity to assess the relative degree of fault that each party should bear for the occurrence of the accident, the court stated. Because the district court did not explain how it calculated Jauch’s medical expenses and the numbers didn’t “add up,” the court ordered a “further round of briefing and a more detailed finding by the district court.” OPINION:Per curiam; Wiener and Clement, J.J., and Martinez, D.J.

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