In a recent 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Edgar Townshend, a tugboat crewmember who injured his arm and shoulder when he slipped and fell on the boat’s steel deck. His employer, Atlantic Sounding Co., said they would not pay for his medical care or time off. This decision allows seamen who are injured on the job to sue for punitive damages, or money that is intended to punish a party for its behavior and prevent a reoccurrence of that behavior, when their employers refuse to pay for time off or medical care.
For this Supreme Court to support a punitive damages case is a good thing, given its reputation as having a strong, conservative, pro-business tilt, given former President Bush’s appointments. This was a victory for the working person – the little guy – against a business who allegedly mistreated an employee.