Fun Cases That You Don’t Know

Since it’s that time of year (by which I mean exam time), I thought I’d write a recurring series of posts on neat cases that I use in my courses but are relatively unknown.  These will mostly be Admiralty cases, as I doubt that there are any “fun” constitutional or IP decisions that are hidden in plain sight.

Let’s start with Koistinen v. American Export Lines, 83 N.Y.S.2d 297 (1948).  Plaintiff was a seaman who was on shore leave in Yugoslavia.  At a bar, he “met a woman whose blandishments, prevailing over his better sense, lured him to her room for purposes not entirely platonic; while there ‘consideration like an angel came and whipped the offending Adam out of him’; the woman scorned was unappeased by his contrition and vociferously remonstrated unless her unregarded charms were requited by an accretion of ‘dinner,’ . . . the court erroneously interpreted the word as showing that the woman had a carnivorous frenzy which could only be soothed by the succulent sirloin provided at the plaintiff’s expense; but it was explained to denote a pecuniary not a gastronomic dun”

I could go on quoting this opinion all day, but to move things along the seaman (having changed his mind about going through with this assignation) was locked in the room by the woman and confronted by her pimp.  The sailor leapt out the window to escape, fell about eight feet, and broke his leg.  The issue was whether the ship was required to pay maintenance and cure (medical expenses and lost wages) related to his injuries.   The Court said yes, on the grounds that shore-leave injuries (with one or two exceptions) are considered work-related in maritime law.  After all, stranding a sailor in a foreign port with no medical care would be contrary to the remedial goals of maintenance and cure.

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