United States District Court, D. Hawaii
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
C. KAY SR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter arises under admiralty law. Plaintiff Transoceanic
Cable Ship Company, LLC (“Transoceanic”), which
owns the vessel C/S Decisive, filed a Complaint on May 8,
2015. ECF No. 1. Therein, Transoceanic sought a binding
declaration that Defendant Jose Fiesta Bautista, Jr.
(“Bautista”) was no longer entitled to the
payment of maintenance and cure benefits because any injuries
Bautista had sustained while a crew member aboard the C/S
Decisive had reached maximum medical cure, see Id.
matter was tried without a jury on August 14-16, 2018.
The Court, having carefully considered the testimony of the
witnesses and the exhibits in the record, and pursuant to
Rule 52(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, makes the
following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. To the
extent that a Finding of Fact constitutes a Conclusion of
Law, the Court adopts it as such. And to the extent that a
Conclusion of Law constitutes a Finding of Fact, the Court
also adopts that assumption. See In re Bubble Up
Delaware, Inc., 684 F.2d 1259, 1262 (9th Cir. 1982)
(“The fact that a court labels determinations
‘Findings of Fact' does not make them so if they
are in reality conclusions of law.”) (citation
FINDINGS OF FACT
all times material, Transoceanic has been a Delaware limited
liability corporation with its principal place of business in
Eatontown, New Jersey. ECF No. 1 ¶ 1.
all times material, Bautista has been a citizen and resident
of the City and County of Honolulu, State of Hawai‘i.
ECF No. 1 ¶ 2; ECF No. 10 ¶ 2. Bautista was
employed by Transoceanic and served as a crew member aboard
the vessel C/S Decisive. ECF No. 1 ¶ 8; ECF No. 10
¶ 8. Bautista was in service of the C/S Decisive for a
period in 2015 that included March 15 through April 27, and
ended by May 3, 2015. See ECF No. 1 ¶ 8; ECF No. 10
¶ 8; Kaneshiro Tsti. Tr. 58:6-7; Bautista Tsti. Tr.
The Complaints and Assessments
Prior to the period of his service aboard the C/S Decisive
that included March 15-April 27, 2015, Bautista was adjudged
to be 100% physically fit. Bautista Tsti. Tr. 7:20-21.
Bautista testified that, prior to the period of his service
aboard the C/S Decisive that included March 15-April 27,
2015, he had never experienced problems with his neck, lower
back, or right knee that were similar to those he complained
of at the end of and after his 2015 service. Bautista Tsti.
Bautista performed physically strenuous work aboard the C/S
Decisive for twelve hours per day, and it was not uncommon
for him to experience pain as a result of his work. Bautista
Tsti. Tr. 12:2-8.
Following a shipboard incident on March 15 or 16, 2015, in
which a large wave knocked Bautista over, he experienced pain
but continued to work until April 26, 2015, at which point he
stayed in bed for two days due to pain. Bautista Tsti. Tr.
72:6-20, 85:11-12; see also Pl.'s Ex 4 at p.
85; Pl.'s Ex. 2 at p. 9.
During his sessions with Transoceanic's independent
medical examiners, Drs. Kaneshiro and Scoggin, Bautista
traced his lower back complaints (but not his neck or knee
complaints) to the March 2015 incident. Pl.'s Ex. 4 at p.
75; Pl.'s Ex. 2 at p. 9; Kaneshiro Tsti. Tr. 39:2-6,
39:21- 25; 40:1-3; Scoggin Tsti. Tr. 119:13-18. At trial,
however, Bautista testified that he injured his back, knee,
and neck sometime before May 2, 2015, while working for
Transoceanic aboard the C/S Decisive, but was unable to
pinpoint a specific date or incident as the origin of his
complaints. Bautista Tsti. Tr. 5:5-16, 6:14-20, 7:5-21,
April 27, 2015, while aboard the C/S Decisive, Bautista
consulted with a shipboard medical professional
(“MDR”) with complaints of back pain and right
knee pain. Pl.'s Ex. 4 at pp. 67-68.
May 2, 2015, Bautista visited an emergency room in Halifax,
Canada, where he complained again of back pain and right knee
pain. Pl.'s Ex. 4 at p. 69.
the recommendation of the MDR, Bautista flew home to
Hawai‘i on or about May 3, 2015. Bautista Tsti. Tr.
74:24- 25, 75:2-3. Once back in Hawai‘i, Bautista
visited a Dr. Prather on May 4, 2015. Pl.'s Ex. 4, pp.
69-70; Bautista Tsti. Tr. 75:5-9. Dr. Prather recorded
Bautista's initial complaints of back pain and right knee
pain and found on physical examination that Bautista had
(inter alia) neck pain and cervical spasm; she ordered x-rays
of his cervical spine, lumbosacral spine, and right knee.
Pl.'s Ex. 4 at pp. 69-70. On May 7, 2015, Dr. Prather
ordered MRIs of Bautista's cervical spine, lumbosacral
spine, and right knee. Pl.'s Ex. 4 at p. 70.
Between June 2015 and July 2018, Bautista made regular visits
to Dr. Nicanor Joaquin, an internist with no specialized
training in orthopedics. Bautista Tsti. Tr. 76:1-6; Joaquin
Tsti. Tr. 30:8-25; Pl.'s Ex. 4 at pp.72-73; Pl.'s Ex.
2 at pp. 26-29, 36-53; Def.'s Ex. B. Dr. Joaquin was
Bautista's primary treatment provider for his back, right
knee, and neck complaints following his service aboard the
C/S Decisive. See Kaneshiro Tsti. Tr. 50:5-6; Bautista Tsti.
Tr. 76:1-6, 78:1-2.
Bautista also sought treatment from Dr. Jeffrey Lee, an
orthopedist. Bautista Tsti. Tr. 76:7-9. On May 14, 2016, Dr.
Lee performed a right-sided L4-L5 laminotomy and discectomy
on Bautista. Pl.'s Ex. 2 at p. 55; see also Scoggin Tsti.
Tr. 114:12-17, 131:16-21; Bautista Tsti. Tr. 76:8-11.
the year and a half preceding trial, the extent of Dr.
Joaquin's treatment of Bautista had been regular office
visits comprising only medication prescription and refills
and subjective symptom assessment. Joaquin Tsti. Tr.
47:14-24, 51:11-16; 37:22-25, 38:1-14.
Bautista was taking a number of medications under Dr.
Joaquin's care. Def.'s Ex B. at
p.177-78, 191-92, 194, 198, 202. Some of these
medications were for maladies unrelated to Bautista's
back, neck, and knee complaints. Joaquin Tsti. Tr. 68:15-17.
All the rest were related to pain relief. Joaquin Tsti. Tr.
well over a year before trial, Bautista had attended physical
therapy once per week. Pl.'s Ex. 2 at p. 10; Joaquin
Tsti. Tr. 50:7-10; Scoggin Tsti. Tr. 127:11-13. Dr. Joaquin
had no knowledge of the details of Bautista's physical
therapy, Joaquin Tsti. Tr. 50:2-6, and appears not to have
requested, received, or studied ...