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Asignacion v. Rickmers Genoa Schiffahrtsgesellschaft mbH & Cie KG

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

April 16, 2015

LITO MARTINEZ ASIGNACION, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
RICKMERS GENOA SCHIFFAHRTSGESELLSCHAFT MBH & CIE KG, Defendant-Appellant. RICKMERS GENOA SCHIFFAHRTSGESELLSCHAFT MBH & CIE KG, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
LITO MARTINEZ ASIGNACION, Defendant-Appellee

Page 1011

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1012

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

For Lito Martinez Asignacion, Plaintiff - Appellee: Richard J. Dodson, Esq., Dodson, Hooks & Frederick, A.P.L.C., Baton Rouge, LA; Darren D. Sumich, Cossich, Sumich, Parsiola & Taylor, L.L.C., Belle Chasse, LA.

For Rickmers Genoa Schiffahrtsgesellschaft Mbh & Cie KG, Defendant - Appellant: Peter Brooks Sloss, Esq., Timothy David DePaula, Esq., Robert H. Murphy, Esq., Murphy, Rogers, Sloss & Gambel, New Orleans, LA.

Before STEWART, Chief Judge, and BENAVIDES and OWEN, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 1013

PRISCILLA R. OWEN, Circuit Judge:

Rickmers Genoa Schiffahrtsgesellschaft mbH & Cie KG (Rickmers) sought to enforce a Philippine arbitral award given to Lito Martinez Asignacion for maritime injuries. The district court refused to enforce the award pursuant to the public-policy defense found in the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the Convention)[1] and the prospective-waiver doctrine. Rickmers appeals. We reverse and remand for the district court to enforce the award.

I

Asignacion, a citizen and resident of the Philippines, signed a contract to work aboard the vessel M/V RICKMERS DAILAN. Rickmers, a German corporation, owned the vessel, which sailed under the flag of the Marshall Islands.

Philippine law mandates that foreign employers hire Filipino workers through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), an arm of the Philippine government. POEA requires Filipino seamen's contracts to include the Standard Terms and Conditions Governing the Employment of Filipino Seafarers On Board Ocean Going Vessels (Standard Terms). Asignacion's contract incorporated the Standard Terms.

The Standard Terms include several provisions related to dispute resolution. Section 29, in part, provides:

In cases of claims and disputes arising from this employment, the parties covered by a collective bargaining agreement shall submit the claim or dispute to the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the voluntary arbitrator or panel of arbitrators. If the parties are not covered by a collective bargaining agreement, the parties may at their option submit the claim or dispute to either the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), pursuant to Republic Act of 1995 or to the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the voluntary arbitrator or panel of arbitrators.

Section 31 provides:

Any unresolved dispute, claim or grievance arising out of or in connection with this Contract, including the annexes thereof, shall be governed by the laws of the Republic of the Philippines, international conventions, treaties and covenants where the Philippines is a signatory.

Section 20(B) provides that when a seaman suffers work-related injuries, the employer must provide the full cost of medical treatment until the seaman is declared fit to work or his level of disability is declared after repatriation to the Philippines. If the seaman is permanently disabled, he is entitled to scheduled disability benefits. Section 20(G) provides that the contract covers " all claims arising from or in the course of the seafarer's employment, including but not limited to damages arising from the contract, tort, fault or negligence under the laws of the Philippines or any other country."

While the M/V RICKMERS DAILAN was docked in the Port of New Orleans, Asignacion suffered burns when a cascade tank aboard the vessel overflowed. After receiving treatment at a burn unit in Baton Rouge for nearly a month, Asignacion was repatriated to the Philippines, where he continued to receive medical attention.

Page 1014

The court below found that Asignacion sustained severe burns to 35% of his body, suffered problems with his body-heat control mechanism, and experienced skin ulcerations and sexual dysfunction. The record and the district court's opinion do not address Asignacion's current condition.

Asignacion sued Rickmers in Louisiana state court to recover for his injuries. Rickmers filed an exception seeking to enforce the arbitration clause of Asignacion's contract. The state court granted the exception, ...


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