In a long-awaited and long (73-page) decision, the Fifth Circuit ruled en banc that a seaman is not entitled to seek punitive damages under the Jones Act or under general maritime law, whether it is a claim for wrongful death or for personal injury.
Congress provided only for pecuniary damages in the Jones Act and in the Death on the High Seas Act. If it wanted to allow recovery of non- pecuniary damages, it could have done so, the Court said. In Miles v. Apex, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Jones Act seaman cannot recover non-pecuniary damages in a wrongful death action. Punitive damages were not available for a seaman alleging unseaworthiness under general maritime law. McBride v. Estis Well Service, LLC., (Fifth Cir., Sept. 25, 2014).