Business Insurance recently reported on the case of a commercial fishing boat crewman named Santos Ramirez, who had dealt with hepatitis C before suffering an injury off of the New Jersey coast. His case shows the role prior conditions play in understanding and interpreting marine crew insurance issues.

The accident, in which Ramirez hit his jaw on a ship bunk during rough seas, occurred six years ago, while Ramirez was working for the company California Dream and led to hospitalization from related complications.

Since then, he has attempted to sue his former employer, an effort that was set back last year because his Hepatitis C, a previous condition, was deemed unrelated to the damage claim. Ramirez was seeking remuneration for maintenance and cure, regarding both his accident and the resulting treatment period that confined him to the hospital.

However, the source notes that an Appeals Court has ruled in Ramirez' favor and that California Dream should recompense him. The judges reportedly decided that it "does not matter if an incapacitating illness pre-existed the seaman's maritime employment" because the cause of the resulting damage was not directly the plaintiff's fault and was "aggravated" by the service the worker performed.

Ramirez' defense operated under the principles of the Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, a key article that dictates the boundaries of marine insurance. Although this legislation holds that maintenance and cure actions can not be pursued if the claimant is working for an energy exploration company or on a foreign continental shelf, it also holds that these exceptions "shall not be applicable if the person bringing the action establishes that no remedy was available to that person." Ramirez's case now goes to District Court.

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