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U.S. Supreme Court

Director, OWCP v. Perini North River Assocs., 459 U.S. 297 (1983)

Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs

v. Perini North River Associates

No. 81-897

Argued October 4, 1982

Decided January 11, 1983

459 U.S. 297


Before 1972, coverage under the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA or Act) extended only to injuries sustained by workers on the actual "navigable waters of the United States (including any dry dock)." In 1972, the Act was amended by expanding the "navigable waters" situs to include certain adjoining land and by adding a status requirement that employees covered by the Act be "engaged in maritime employment" within the meaning of § 2(3) of the Act. In this case, an employee (Churchill) of respondent construction firm was injured while performing his job on the deck of a cargo barge being used in the construction of a sewage treatment plant extending over the Hudson River in New York. Churchill's claim for compensation under the LHWCA was administratively denied on the ground that he was not "engaged in maritime employment" under § 2(3). On Churchill's petition for review, in which the Director of the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (Director) (petitioner here) participated as respondent in support of Churchill, the Court of Appeals held that Churchill was not in "maritime employment" because his employment lacked a "significant relationship to navigation or to commerce on navigable waters."


1. Where Churchill is a party respondent under this Court's Rule 19.6 and has filed a brief arguing for his coverage under the Act, there is a justiciable controversy before the Court. Accordingly, it is unnecessary to consider whether the Director, as the official responsible for administration and enforcement of the Act, has Art. III standing as an aggrieved party to seek review of the decision below. The Director's petition under 28 U.S.C. § 1254(1) brings Churchill before the Court, and he, as the injured employee, has a sufficient interest in the question at issue to give him standing to urge consideration of the merits of the Court of Appeals' decision. Pp. 459 U. S. 302-305.

2. Churchill, as a marine construction worker injured while performing his job upon actual navigable waters, was "engaged in maritime employment"

Page 459 U. S. 298

within the meaning of § 2(3), and thus was covered by the amended Act. Pp. 459 U. S. 305-325.

(a) There is no doubt that Churchill would have been covered by the Act before it was amended in 1972. Pp. 459 U. S. 305-312.

(b) There is nothing in the legislative history or in the 1972 Amendments themselves to indicate that Congress intended to withdraw coverage from employees injured on navigable waters in the course of their employment as that coverage existed before the 1972 Amendments, or that it intended the status language of § 2(3) to require that such an employee show that his employment possessed a direct or substantial relation to navigation or commerce in order to be covered. On the contrary, the legislative history indicates that Congress did not intend to "exclude employees traditionally covered." Moreover, Congress explicitly deleted language from the Act that was found in Calbeck v. Travelers Insurance Co., 370 U. S. 114, to be responsible for the "jurisdictional dilemma" created by the "maritime but local" doctrine whereby a maritime worker was often required to make a perilous jurisdictional "guess" as to which of the two mutually exclusive compensation schemes, i.e., the federal or the state scheme, was applicable to cover his injury. Pp. 459 U. S. 313-325.

652 F.2d 255, reversed and remanded.

O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 459 U. S. 325. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion,post, p. 459 U. S. 325.

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