How is jurisdiction established under the LHWCA?
The Longshore and Harbors Workers’ Compensation Act (“LHWCA”) covers longshore/harbor workers and other “maritime” workers. The Act has also been applied to certain other workers under the Defense Base Act. (See my overview of the LHWCA).
“Status” and “situs.”
The LHWCA set forth the requirements for coverage. “Status” refers to the nature of the work performed; “situs” refers to the place of performance.
The employee claiming benefits under the LHWCA must be engaged in maritime employment, including any longshoreman or other person engaged in longshoring operations, including any harbor-worker including a ship repairman, shipbuilder, and ship-breaker. There are specific exclusion which apply to status.
The jurisdictional trigger for a claim under the LHWCA is an injury upon the navigable waters of the United States (including any adjoining pier, wharf, dry dock, terminal, building way, marine railway, or other adjoining area customarily used by an employer in loading, unloading, repairing, dismantling, or building a vessel). Jurisdictional questions based on issues of situs are fact-sensitive.
In a new case, decided last month, the employer argued that the claimant did not satisfy either the status or situs prerequisites of the LHWCA. The Benefits Review Board ruled that the claimant did satisfy the status requirement, because he was maintaining and repairing loading equipment used in Longshoring activity.
However, the claimant worked in a garage, more than 400 feet from any navigable water (the Monongahela River). The employer argued that the claimant did not meet the ‘situs’ test.
Taking a liberal view, the Circuit Court adopted a broad reading of “other adjoining area customarily used by an employer in loading, unloading, repairing, dismantling, or building a vessel,” requirement of the Act. In defining “adjoining area,” the court held that “[s]o long as the site is close to or in the vicinity of navigable waters, or in a neighboring area, an employee’s injury can come within the [Act]. To require absolute contiguity . . . would frustrate the congressional objectives of providing uniform benefits and covering land-based maritime activity.” The Board ruled that the garage where claimant was injured was a covered situs, and awarded benefits.
Case: Consolidation Coal Co. v. BRB, et al. [Smith], __ F.3d __, 2010 WL 5176847 (3d Cir. 2010).
Have any questions about this article? Contact Greg Lois.