Cardillo v. Liberty Mut Ins Co

Decision Date10 March 1947
Docket NumberNo. 265,265
Citation91 L.Ed. 1028,330 U.S. 469,67 S.Ct. 801
PartiesCARDILLO, Deputy Com'r, U.S. Employees' Compensation Commission, v. LIBERTY MUT. INS. CO. et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Mr. Philip Elman, of Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Mr. Arthur J. Phelan, of Washington, D.C., for respondents.

Mr. Justice MURPHY delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner, Deputy Commissioner of the United States Employees' Compensation Commission, issued an order under the District of Columbia Workmen's Compensation Act1 awarding compensation to the widow of one Clarence H. Ticer. It was specifically found that the injury which led to Ticer's death 'arose out of and in the course of the employment.' The propriety and effect of that finding are the main focal points of our inquiry in this case.

Section 1 of the District of Columbia Workmen's Compensation Act provides in part that 'The provisions of the Act entitled 'Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act,' * * * shall apply in respect to the injury or death of an employee of an employer carrying on any employment in the District of Columbia, irrespective of the place where the injury or death occurs.' The Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act,2 § 2(2), in turn defines the term 'injury' to include 'accidental injury or death arising out of and in the course of employment, * * *.' A finding that the injury or death was one 'arising out of and in the course of employment' is therefore essential to an award of compensation under the District of Columbia Workmen's Compensation Act.

In support of his order in this case the Deputy Commissioner made various findings of fact. These may be summarized as follows:

Ticer and his wife were residents of the District of Columbia. He had been regularly employed since about 19343 as an electrician by E. C. Ernst, Inc., a contractor engaged in electrical construction work in the District of Columbia and surrounding areas. In November, 1940, Ticer was transferred by his employer from a project in the District of Columbia to a project at the Quantico Marine Base at Quantico, Virginia. His work at the Marine Base continued for over three years until the time of his injury in December, 1943.

There was in effect at all times an agreement between the electrical workers' union and the employer. Section 15(b) of this agreement provided that 'Transportation and any necessary expense such as board and lodging shall be furnished (by the employer) for all work outside the District of Columbia.' The sum of $2 a day was fixed by the parties to this agreement as transportation expense and represented the approximate cost of travel from the District of Columbia to the Quantico Marine Base and return. This sum was paid to Ticer and others in addition to the regular hourly rate of pay. And it was paid in lieu of the employer's furnishing transportation.

Because the job site at the Marine Base was several miles away from the Quantico bus or train terminal, it was necessary for Ticer and his co-workers to drive their own automobiles to and from work. The employees formed a car pool. Each morning they started from their respective homes in their own automobiles and drove to a designated meeting place at Roaches Run, Virginia. From that point they would proceed in one car to the job site at the Marine Base. This procedure was repeated in reverse in the evening. The workers alternated in the use of the cars between Roaches Run and the job site. Non-members of the car pool each paid the car owner $1 for the round trip.

The employer was aware of the means of transportation being used and acquiesced therein. On December 13, 1943, Ticer was driving his car on a direct route from his place of employment to his home, following the close of the day's work. Four co-workers were riding with him, two of them being non-members of the car pool. As the car approached Fort Belvoir, Virginia, a large stone, which came from under the rear wheel of a passing truck, crashed through the windshield of the car. It struck Ticer's head, crushing his skull. Death resulted four days later.

Ticer's widow presented a claim for compensation. At the hearing before the Deputy Commissioner, the employer and the insurance carrier contended that the Virginia Compensation Commission had sole jurisdiction over the claim and that Ticer's injury did not arise out of or in the course of his employment. The Deputy Commissioner ruled against these contentions. After making the foregoing findings, he entered an order awarding death benefits and funeral expenses to the claimant.

The employer and the insurance carrier then brought this action in the District Court to set aside the order of the Deputy Commissioner. They renewed their jurisdictional objection and alleged a lack of substantial evidence to support the finding that Ticer's injury arose out of and in the course of his employment. The District Court dismissed the complaint, holding that the Deputy Commissioner's findings were supported by evidence in the record and that the compensation order was in all respects in accordance with law. On appeal, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed, one justice dissenting. 154 F.2d 529. Without passing upon the jurisdictional issue, the court held that Ticer's injury had not arisen out of and in the course of his employment. It felt that Ticer had become entirely free of his employer's control at the close of the day's work at the Marine Base and that he had thereafter assumed his own risk in subjecting himself to the hazards of the highway. We granted certiorari on a petition alleging a conflict with the decision of this Court in Voehl v. Indemnity Ins. Co., 288 U.S. 162, 53 S.Ct. 380, 77 L.Ed. 676, 87 A.L.R. 245.

As noted, the Court of Appeals deemed it unnecessary to dispose of the question whether the Deputy Commissioner had jurisdiction over the instant claim. But in reviewing an administrative order, it is ordinarily preferable, where the issue is raised and where the record permits an adjudication, for a federal court first to satisfy itself that the administrative agency or officer had jurisdiction over the matter in dispute. At the same time, however, it is needless to remand this case to the Court of Appeals for a determination of the jurisdictional issue. That issue was considered and determined by the Deputy Commissioner, who was in turn sustained by the District Court. The facts pertinent to that issue are not seriously disputed and the matter has been fully briefed and argued before us. A remand under such circum tances is not warranted. We accordingly turn to a consideration of the jurisdictional issue.

We are aided here, of course, by the provision of § 20 of the Longshoremen's Act that, in proceedings under that Act, jurisdiction is to be 'presumed, in the absence of substantial evidence to the contrary'—a provision which applies with equal force to proceedings under the District of Columbia Act. And the Deputy Commissioner's findings as to jurisdiction are entitled to great weight and will be rejected only where there is apparent error. Davis v. Department of Labor and Industries, 317 U.S. 249, 256, 257, 63 S.Ct. 225, 229, 87 L.Ed. 246. His conclusion that jurisdiction exists in this case is supported both by the statutory provisions and by the evidence in the record.

The jurisdiction of the Deputy Commissioner to consider the claim in this case rests upon the statement in the District of Columbia Act that it 'shall apply in respect to the injury or death of an employee of an employer carrying on any employment in the District of Columbia, irrespective of the place where the injury or death occurs; except that in applying such provisions the term 'employer' shall be held to mean every person carrying on any employment in the District of Columbia, and the term 'employee' shall be held to mean every employee of any such person.' There is no question here but that Ticer was employed by a District of Columbia employer; the latter had its place of business in the District and engaged in construction work in the District, as well as in surrounding areas. But the contention is made that, despite the broad sweep of the statutory language, the Act applies only where the employee, during the whole of his employment, spent more time working within the District than be spent working outside the District. Using that criterion, it is said that the Act is inapplicable to this case since Ticer was employed on a construction job in Virginia continuously for over three years prior to the accident and did nothing within the District for his employer during that period. The implication is that only the Virginia workmen's compensation law is applicable.

But the record indicates that both Ticer and his wife were residents of the District. He had been hired in the District by his employer in 1934 and had worked on various projects in and around the District from that time until 1940, when he was assigned to the Quantico Marine Base project. While at the Marine Base, he was under orders from the District and was subject to being transferred at anytime to a project in the District. His pay was either carried to him from the District or was given to him directly in the District. And he commuted daily between his home in the District and the Marine Base project.

We hold that the jurisdictional objection is without merit in light of these facts. Nothing in the history, the purpose or the language of the Act warrants any limitation which would preclude its application to this case. The Act in so many words applies to every employee of an employer carrying on any employment in the District of Columbia, 'irrespective of the place where the injury or death occurs.' Those words leave no possible room for reading in an implied exception excluding those employees like Ticer who have substantial business and personal connections in the District...

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