9th Circuit Affirms Validity of Unrepresented Seaman’s Release
In an unpublished opinion, the Ninth Circuit upheld an unrepresented seaman’s executed release agreement of his personal injury claim in Lyon v. F/V ENDURANCE, No. 12-35671 (9th Cir. 7/15/13).
Applicable law requires that a court scrutinize the validity of an unrepresented seaman’s release under principles of admiralty law analogous to the duty owed by a fiduciary to a beneficiary, not solely under principles of contract law. To determine whether a seaman fully understands his rights at the time a seaman’s release is executed, the court considers: (1) the adequacy of the consideration; (2) the nature of the medical advice available to the seaman at the time of signing the release; and (3) the nature of the legal advice available to the seaman at the time of signing the release.
The Court affirmed the district court’s finding that the consideration provided for in the release was adequate, based on the undisputed evidence regarding the nature and extent of Lyon’s injuries. Additionally, no reasonable juror could have concluded that the consideration paid by Defendant was never received by Lyon as he claimed. Lyon received sufficient medical advice regarding the extent of his injuries and the disability resulting from those injuries. The evidence demonstrates that Lyon visited the doctor on several occasions over the course of his treatment and had numerous opportunities to inform himself about the nature and extent of his injuries. Finally, the Court held that the district court did not err in determining that Lyon was sufficiently aware of his legal rights at the time he executed the release.