IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT
D. C. Docket No. 98-02076-CV-DLG
JOSE ANTONIO CABRERA ESPINAL,
ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES, LTD.,
CELEBRITY CRUISES, INC.,
D. C. Docket No. 99-02475-CV-SH
JOSE ANTONIO CABRERA ESPINAL,
ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES, LTD.,
CELEBRITY CRUISES, INC.,
Appeals from the United States District Court
for the Southern District of Florida
(June 8, 2001)
Before TJOFLAT and WILSON, Circuit
Judges, and RESTANI *, Judge.
Jose Antonio Cabrera Espinal ("Cabrera
Espinal") is the plaintiff in two related cases that have
been consolidated on appeal. Addressing each temporally according
to the date filed, we will refer to the cases as Espinal I and
Espinal II. For the reasons stated below the district court's
decision in Espinal I is affirmed in part and reversed in part,
and Espinal II is affirmed.
Cabrera Espinal worked on Royal
Caribbean Cruises' ("RCC") ships as a tip-earning employee
under a contract that commenced on December 23, 1997 and expired
on November 23, 1998. The contract provided for at-will employment
to be terminated with two weeks notice. A collective bargaining
agreement ("CBA") governed the contract.
The contract provided for a guaranteed
minimum monthly income of $766.00 ($50 in contract wages and
$716 in tips). If an employee did not receive the calculated
monthly minimum in tips, RCC would provide the difference.
In February of 1998, Cabrera Espinal
herniated a lumbar disc and was unable to finish his employment
contract due to his work related injury. Pursuant to the CBA,
RCC paid him sick wages from the time he became injured for 112
days in the amount of $766 per month. Cabrera Espinal brought
suit against RCC contending that he is entitled to his average
or actual monthly salary ($1500 which includes $1450 in tips)
as sick wages instead of the guaranteed minimum.
The district court agreed with Cabrera
Espinal and found that he was entitled to actual wages for the
112 days provided for in the CBA. RCC now appeals that decision.
The sole question for review is
whether the district court should have applied general maritime
law or the CBA in calculating the amount of unearned sick wages
and the length of time for which those wages are due. We review
a motion granting summary judgment de novo, applying the
same legal standards used by the district court. Raney v.
Vinson Guard Serv., Inc., 120 F.3d 1192, 1196 (11th Cir.
Under general maritime law, seamen
are entitled to bring an action for "maintenance and cure,"
a remedy available to compensate seamen who fall ill or become
injured during the their term of employment. See Flores v.
Carnival Cruise Lines, 47 F.3d 1120, 1122 (11th Cir. 1995).
The Supreme Court has previously recognized that a ship owner's
liability for maintenance and cure is among the most pervasive
and should not be defeated by narrow or restrictive distinctions.
See Vaughan v. Atkinson, 369 U.S. 527, 532 (1962). Nonetheless,
the remedies provided for in maritime law may be altered although
not abrogated by collective bargaining agreements. See Frederick
v. Kirby Tankships, Inc., 205 F.3d 1277, 1291 (11th Cir.
2000) (holding that where a CBA fixes a maintenance rate, the
term should be enforced), cert. denied, __ U.S. __, 121
S. Ct. 46 (2000). "[T]he broad labor policies which undergird
federal labor law, as well as the nature of the collective bargaining
process, require adherence to the CBA." Id.; see
also Gardiner v. Sea-Land Serv., Inc., 786 F.2d 943, 948
(9th Cir. 1986). The reason for this is that a CBA represents
a mutual agreement encompassing a wide range of issues for which
some provisions will result in greater protection than that represented
by statute while others will result in less. Frederick, 205
F.3d at 1291; see also Lipscomb v. Foss Maritime Co.,
83 F.3d 1106, 1108-9 (9th Cir. 1996). As a result, based on the
greater considerations that result in a collective bargaining
agreement, this court will enforce the provisions unless contrary
to the law. See Marshall v. Western Grain Co., 838 F.2d
1165, 1168-70 (11th Cir. 1988)(per curiam).
General maritime law guarantees
seamen: "(1) maintenance, which is a living allowance; (2)
cure, which covers nursing and medical expenses; and (3) wages."
Herbert R. Baer, Admiralty Law of the Supreme Court 6
(3d ed. 1979); see 1B Benedict on Admiralty §
43 (7th ed. 1994). Our case law has previously held that the
wages for incapacitated seamen should be measured based on their
average tip income. See e.g., Flores, 47 F.3d at 1127;
Aksoy v. Apollo Ship Chandlers, Inc., 137 F.3d 1304 (11th
Cir. 1998)(per curiam).
RCC argues that the district court
erred in applying our previous case law in light of a collective
bargaining agreement that explicitly states how sick pay and
basic monthly wages would be measured. It contends that prior
case law used average tip income as a measure simply because
no other method of calculation existed and had this situation
been presented to those panels, they would have found the CBA
Given this argument, we first look
to whether the CBA modified general maritime law. The CBA states:
Wages (basic monthly wage), will
continue [after the seafarer leaves the ship] on submission of
satisfactory medical certificates for a maximum of 112 (hundred
and twelve) days.
CBA, Article 12. An attached chart
also indicates what specific "basic monthly wage" and
"sick pay" are. The district court held that the CBA
expressly modified the maritime law computation of sick wages.
We agree. Yet, the district court relied on a series of cases,
which calculated sick wages as wages plus average tip- income
instead of a fixed minimum, to hold that the clause modifying
maritime law was inapplicable. We find that the district court
erred in finding the clause inapplicable.
The two cases that the district
court relies on in support of basing sick wages on the average
tip income of the seafarer are Flores and Aksoy.
Flores is easily distinguishable because there Carnival
Cruise Lines argued that it had no legal duty to pay more than
the $45-per-month salary as unearned (or sick) wages. 47 F.3d
at 1122. In a case of first impression, the court held that tip
income must be included in the calculation of unearned wages.
Id. at 1127. It, then, set the rate as the average tip
income earned absent any other prevailing authority on the matter.
Id. Three years later, the Aksoy court relied on
the Flores logic to calculate unearned wages as the average
tip income plus guaranteed minimum wage because "Aksoy's
contract did not purport to place a limit on the amount of unearned
wages Aksoy was entitled to receive. . ." Aksoy,
137 F.3d at 1306. The present case is distinguishable not only
because a plain language reading of the CBA purports to limit
the amount of unearned wages but also in the intervening period,
we have adopted a view of the law that requires us to rely on
collective bargaining agreements' modifications of maritime law.
See Frederick, 205 F.3d at 1291.
Therefore, we conclude that nothing
in maritime law prevents the setting of sick wages below the
average tip income received. The CBA in the instant case, as
is true in any collective bargaining agreement, represents a
series of trade-offs between an employer and employees reaching
a mutually satisfying agreement. Courts should be loathe for
a multitude of reasons to abrogate clauses in such contracts
absent a pressing legal reason. Furthermore, precedent in this
circuit may be distinguished on the grounds that none of the
employment contracts in those cases explicitly indicated how
sick pay and basic monthly wages would be calculated. As the
CBA in this case did, we find that the district court erred in
not relying on the CBA to calculate the amount of unearned sick
wages. However, because the district court correctly relied on
the CBA to calculate the length of time for which those wages
should be paid, that part of the opinion is affirmed. See
Farrell v. United States, 336 U.S. 511, 520-21 (1949) (holding
that a seaman's length of voyage is the duration of employment
for which sick wages are due unless some longer term is enforceable);
Nichols v. Barwick, 792 F.2d 1520, 1524 (11th Cir. 1986)
Filed later in time than Espinal
I but occurring prior to the events that led up to that case,
Cabrera Espinal appeals the district court's grant of summary
judgment to the RCC.
Cabrera Espinal was a tip-earning
employee under a contract for Celebrity Cruises, Inc.,1 which
commenced on November 4, 1996 and expired on October 3, 1997.
His contract guaranteed him income of $743 per month ($50 in
wages with the rest in tips). He could be terminated at-will
and without notice.
Cabrera Espinal developed an eye
injury during his period of employment but waited until the boat
returned to port at its final destination on October 1, 1997
before receiving medical attention. Prior to the end of the voyage,
Cabrera Espinal consulted the ship's doctor. Upon leaving the
ship, he first saw a doctor in Miami and then in his native land
of Honduras where the medical attention he received resulted
in a cure on December 3, 1997.
RCC paid sick wages to Cabrera Espinal
based on the guaranteed minimum for 63 days under the then applicable
CBA. Cabrera Espinal again argues that he was entitled to actual
earnings of $1500 during that period. The district court granted
summary judgment to RCC stating that because Cabrera Espinal's
contract terminated on or about October 1, 1997, he was not entitled
to receive any sick pay under either maritime law or the CBA
as of that date.
The sole question for review is
whether the district court erred in granting summary judgment
to RCC by finding that Cabrera Espinal was not an employee and
thus not entitled to sick pay under the CBA or maritime law.
Cabrera Espinal contends that in
light of the rule of Farrell, 336 U.S. 511,2 the
CBA's sick period and wage provisions did not become null and
void when the employment contract expired. He further argues
that because RCC paid some sick wages, it is an implicit admission
that sick wages are due.
For all the reasons stated in Espinal
I, we hold that the CBA applies. Article 2 of the CBA states
that an employee is covered by the agreement until the owner
ceases to be liable for wages or the date at which the employee
signs off the ship. It is undisputed that Cabrera Espinal signed
off the ship on October 1, 1997, after the final voyage was completed
and two days before his employment contract expired and the boat
would leave port again. Article 12 of the CBA provides that a
signed off seafarer who lands in any port as a result of injury
or sickness will continue to receive his wages until he has been
repatriated at company expense. The seafarer will then be paid
in advance for the anticipated number of days certified by a
doctor that he is expected to be sick or injured.
The boat that Cabrera Espinal was
employed on docked in Los Angeles. Cabrera Espinal was flown
at company expense to Miami, where he received an initial examination.
On October 4, 1997, he flew home to Honduras for surgery. His
surgery was completed on December 3, 1997. At the time of Cabrera
Espinal's operation, Celebrity Cruise Lines merged with RCC.
RCC contends that it was during this confusing time when it was
unclear whose CBA applied and paperwork was lost that a disbursement
for sick wages was made.
We need not decide when and under
what circumstances Cabrera Espinal received sick wages. It is
more than enough to rely on the fact that a "seaman's action
for maintenance and cure may be seen as one designed to put the
sailor in the same position as he would have been had he continued
to work: . . . and he receives an amount representing his unearned
wages for the duration of his voyage or contract period."
Flores, 47 F.3d at 1127; see also Farrell, 336
U.S. at 516 (stating that a seaman must be in service of the
ship at the time of his injury to receive maintenance and cure).
In the instant case, the final voyage was completed and only
two days were left on Cabrera Espinal's employment contract.
To find that the company owed him any further obligations would
contradict both contract law as embodied in the CBA and this
circuit's interpretation of general maritime law. As a result,
we affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment to RCC.
In Espinal I, we find that the CBA
governed in its entirety the amount and duration of sick wages
to be paid. As a result, the district court's calculation of
the amount of sick wages is REVERSED.
The application of the CBA's 112-day
sick period is AFFIRMED.
As it appears that RCC paid sick
wages for 112 days based on its calculation of the basic monthly
wages, it has fulfilled its obligations to Cabrera Espinal.
In Espinal II, because we find that
Cabrera Espinal was sufficiently compensated for his term of
employment and was owed no further duty at the time he was recuperating
from his eye injury, the district court's grant of summary judgment
Finally, RCC complied with the CBA
and no evidence of bad faith exists on its part. See Flores,
47 F.3d at 1127. Therefore, Cabrera Espinal's motion requesting
attorneys' fees is DENIED.
Jane A. Restani, Judge, U.S. Court of International Trade, sitting
 Royal Caribbean Cruises bought out Celebrity
Cruises prior to Cabrera Espinal's receipt of sick wages.
held that as a general rule a seaman's employment term is the
length of voyage unless there is a longer term of employment