Whether injured seamen are entitled to punitive damages is the focus of a case the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider.

“I would say this is the biggest maritime case to be heard by the Supreme Court in years,” maritime attorney Preston Easley of San Pedro, Calif., who represents the injured worker the case focuses on, told Bloomberg Law.

The legal dispute pits against each other opposing opinions from the two federal appeals courts that oversee most maritime cases—the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit...