342 U.S. 197 (1952), 229, Pillsbury v. United Engineering Co.

Docket Nº:No. 229
Citation:342 U.S. 197, 72 S.Ct. 223, 96 L.Ed. 225
Party Name:Pillsbury v. United Engineering Co.
Case Date:January 02, 1952
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 197

342 U.S. 197 (1952)

72 S.Ct. 223, 96 L.Ed. 225



United Engineering Co.

No. 229

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 2, 1952

Argued December 6, 1951




Under § 13(a) of the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, the one-year period of limitation on the filing of claims for compensation for disability begins to run on the date of the injury, and not on some subsequent date when disability occurs. Pp. 197-200.

187 F.2d 987 affirmed.

The District Court vacated certain awards of compensation under the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. 92 F.Supp. 898. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 187 F.2d 987. This Court granted certiorari. 342 U.S. 847. Affirmed, p. 200.

MINTON, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE MINTON delivered the opinion of the Court.

These four cases present the same question, namely, the construction and application of the statute of limitations provision [72 S.Ct. 224] of the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, 44 Stat. 1424, § 13(a), 33 U.S.C. § 913(a), which provides in pertinent part as follows:

The right to compensation for disability under this Act shall be barred unless a claim therefor is filed within one year after the injury. . . .

Page 198

The claims here involved were filed from eighteen to twenty-four months from the dates the employees were injured. The Deputy Commissioner held that the claims were nevertheless timely, since they had been filed within one year after the claimants had become disabled because of their injuries. The District Court vacated the awards, 92 F.Supp. 898, and the Court of Appeals affirmed on the ground that the claims were barred because not "filed within one year after the injury," 187 F.2d 987, 990. We granted certiorari, 342 U.S. 847, because of a conflict between circuits,1 identical to the present conflict between the holdings of the Deputy Commissioner and the Court of Appeals, as to the construction to be given the limitations provision. This same question was before us in 1940 in Kobilkin v. Pillsbury, 103 F.2d 667, aff'd by an equally divided Court, 309 U.S. 619.

Petitioners contend that the word "injury," as used in the statute, should be construed to mean "disability." This contention is premised on petitioners' conclusion that § 6(a) of the Act, which provides that "No compensation shall be allowed for the first seven days of the disability,"2 ("disability" is elsewhere defined in the Act as "incapacity because of injury to earn the wages which the employee was receiving at the time of injury in the same or any other employment")3 and § 19(a), which provides that "a claim . . . may be filed . . . at any time after the first seven days of disability following any injury,"4 operate to prevent the filing of a claim before seven days of disability have occurred. Since, as was

Page 199

the case of each of the claimants here, an injured employee may fail to accrue seven days' "disability" within a year after his injury, petitioners argue that such an employee will be barred from filing his claim before his right to file it arises, if "injury" is construed to mean "injury." Thus, petitioners conclude that the limitation should not be made to run until the injury becomes compensable, i.e., after seven days' "disability."

But the right to recover for disability is one thing, and the right to file a claim is another. It has long been the practice of the Deputy Commissioner to permit filing to avoid the running of the one-year limitation period here involved. A proper interpretation of §§ 6(a) and 19(a) does not prohibit the filing of a claim before the accrual of seven days' disability. Each of the claimants here was immediately aware of his injury, received medical treatment, and suffered continuous pain. We are not here dealing with a latent injury or an occupational disease.

We are not free, under the guise of construction, to amend the statute by inserting therein before the word "injury" the word "compensable" so as to make "injury" read as if it were "disability." Congress knew the difference between "disability" and "injury," and used the words advisedly. This view is especially compelling when it is noted that the two words are used in the same sentence of the limitations provision; therein, "disability" is related to the right to compensation, while...

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