Pittston Stevedoring Corp. v. Dellaventura

Decision Date06 December 1976
Docket Number1044,D,Nos. 1004,1014,1111,s. 1004
Citation544 F.2d 35
PartiesPITTSTON STEVEDORING CORPORATION and the Home Insurance Company, Petitioners, v. Anthony DELLAVENTURA, and DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION PROGRAMS, United States Department of Labor., Respondents, NORTHEAST MARINE TERMINAL COMPANY, INC., Employer, and State Insurance Fund, Carrier, Petitioners, v. Ralph CAPUTO, Claimant, and Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, U.S.D.L., Respondents. PITTSTON STEVEDORING CORPORATION, Petitioner, v. John SCAFFIDI and Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, U.S.D.L., Respondents. INTERNATIONAL TERMINAL OPERATING COMPANY, INC., Self-Insured Employer- Petitioner, v. Carmelo BLUNDO, Claimant, and Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, U. S. D. L., Respondents. ockets 76-4042, 76-4009, 76-4043 and 76-4249.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit

Joseph F. Manes, Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., for Pittston Stevedoring Corp. and The Home Ins. Co.

William M. Kimball, New York City (Burlingham, Underwood & Lord, New York City, of counsel), for Northeast Marine Terminal Co. and State Ins. Fund.

Leonard J. Linden, New York City (Linden & Gallagher, New York City, of counsel), for International Terminal Operating Co., Inc.

Angelo C. Gucciardo, New York City (Israel, Adler, Ronca & Gucciardo, New York City, of counsel), for respondents Dellaventura, Caputo, Scaffidi and Blundo.

Ronald E. Meisburg, U.S. Dept. of Labor, Washington, D.C. (William J. Kilberg, Sol. of Labor, Laurie M. Streeter, Associate Sol., Jean S. Cooper, Esq., and Francine K. Weiss, Dept. of Labor, Washington, D.C. of counsel), for Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs.

Thomas W. Gleason, Jr., New York City (Irwin Herschlag, New York City, of counsel), for International Longshoremen's Association, AFL-CIO, amicus curiae.

Thomas D. Wilcox, Washington, D.C., for National Association of Stevedores, amicus curiae.

Before LUMBARD, FRIENDLY and OAKES, Circuit Judges.

FRIENDLY, Circuit Judge:

We have here four petitions under 33 U.S.C. § 921(c) by employers, in some instances joined by their insurance carriers, to review orders of the Benefits Review Board (BRB) affirming compensation awards made to four employees under the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), as amended in 1972, 33 U.S.C. §§ 901 et seq. 1 They present a question of considerable importance, namely, how far the 1972 Amendments extended the coverage of LHWCA.

Presented with the same general issue, a divided panel of the Fourth Circuit ruled in favor of the employers, I.T.O. Corporation of Baltimore v. Benefits Review Board, U. S. Dep't of Labor and Adkins, 529 F.2d 1080 (4 Cir. 1975), holding that the Act extended benefits only to persons injured while unloading cargo from the ship to what the majority termed a "first point of rest," i. e., the first place where the cargo is deposited on a pier or terminal area after being unloaded, and to persons injured while loading cargo from the "last point of rest," 529 F.2d at 1081. The I.T.O. case has been reheard en banc. We are told that only one other circuit has construed the extended coverage provisions here at issue, Weyerhaeuser Co. v. Gilmore, 528 F.2d 957 (9 Cir. 1975), rehearing denied, Feb. 6, 1976, petition for cert. filed, No. 75-1620, 44 U.S.L.W. 3645 (U.S. May 6, 1976), a case we do not consider to be truly relevant, but that the issue here presented is sub judice in the First Circuit, John T. Clark & Son of Boston, Inc. v. William Stockman, No. 75-1360, argued Jan. 5, 1976, and in the Fifth Circuit. Given the importance of the question, the number of courts of appeals endeavoring to find an answer, and the divergence of opinion already manifested, it seems unlikely that the opinion of any court of appeals will be the last word to be said. In consequence we shall not dwell on the long history of the problem of affording appropriate remedies for longshoremen and harbor workers against their employers which had its inception in Southern Pacific Co. v. Jensen, 244 U.S. 205, 37 S.Ct. 524, 61 L.Ed. 1086 (1917) a history which is interestingly traced in Gilmore & Black, The Law of Admiralty §§ 6-45 to -49 (2d ed. 1975) but will proceed directly to the cases in hand.

The situation that led to adoption of the 1972 Amendments was described as follows in the portion of the Senate Report headed "Need for the Bill," S.Rep.No.92-1125, 92d Cong., 2d Sess. 4-5 (1972), U.S.Code Cong. & Admin.News 1972, p. 4698.

Since 1946, due to a number of decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, it has been possible for an injured longshoreman to avail himself of the benefits of the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act and to sue the owner of the ship on which he was working for damages as a result of his injury. The Supreme Court has ruled that such ship owner, under the doctrine of seaworthiness, was liable for damages caused by any injury regardless of fault. In addition, shipping companies generally have succeeded in recovering the damages for which they are held liable to injured longshoremen from the stevedore on theories of express or implied warranty, thereby transferring their liability to the stevedore company, the actual employer of the longshoremen.

The social costs of these law suits, the delays, crowding of court calendars and the need to pay for lawyers' services have seldom resulted in a real increase in actual benefits for injured workers.

For a number of years representatives of the employees have attempted to have the benefit levels under the Act raised so that injured workers would be properly protected by the Act. At the same time, employer groups indicated their willingness to increase such payments but indicated they could do so only if the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act were to again become the exclusive remedy against the stevedore as had been intended since its passage in 1927 until modified by various Supreme Court decisions.

The bill reported by the committee meets these objections by specifically eliminating suits against vessels brought for injuries to longshoremen under the doctrine of seaworthiness and outlawing indemnification actions and "hold harmless" or indemnity agreements. It continues to allow suits against vessels or other third parties for negligence. At the same time it raises benefits to a level commensurate with present day salaries and with the needs of injured workers whose sole support will be payments under the Act.

In practical terms the bill was a trade-off. See Landon v. Lief Hoegh and Co., Inc., 521 F.2d 756, 761-62 (2 Cir. 1975), cert. denied, 423 U.S. 1053, 96 S.Ct. 783, 46 L.Ed.2d 642 (1976). Stevedores and other employers were pushing for complete abolition of the three-way damage action possible under Seas Shipping Co., Inc. v. Sieracki, 328 U.S. 85, 66 S.Ct. 872, 90 L.Ed. 1099 (1946), which held longshoremen and other harbor workers to be "seamen" entitled to sue the ship for unseaworthiness, and Ryan Stevedoring Co., Inc. v. Pan-Atlantic S. S. Corp., 350 U.S. 124, 76 S.Ct. 232, 100 L.Ed. 133 (1956), which permitted the shipowner to seek indemnity for any liability thus entailed from an injured worker's employer. This triangle in effect exposed the employer (already liable for and often having paid the limited benefits provided by the LHWCA) to an unlimited liability to the employee for damages and to the shipowner for its counsel fees in defending the employee's suit. The unions representing longshoremen and other harbor workers, which for years had been seeking increased benefits under the Act, opposed Congressional repeal of their Sieracki-created status as "seamen" in part on the grounds that the LHWCA's benefits were so low that workers needed the additional protection of the "unseaworthiness" doctrine. The compromise between these positions effected by the 1972 Amendments was this: The Sieracki action for unseaworthiness was eliminated, longshoremen in the future could sue the ship only for negligence, and employers were immunized from indemnity suits by shipowners. 33 U.S.C. § 905(b). In return, the workers were to secure increased benefits under LHWCA and, what is here pertinent, an extension of that statute's coverage. Thus the Senate Committee said that the principal purpose of the Amendments was "to upgrade the benefits, extend coverage to protect additional workers, provide a specified cause of action for damages against third parties, and to promulgate administrative reforms," Sen.Rep., supra, p. 1.

The change in the coverage section was dramatic. Before amendment the first sentence of 31 U.S.C. § 903(a) read:

Compensation shall be payable under this chapter in respect of disability or death of an employee, but only if the disability or death results from an injury occurring upon the navigable waters of the United States (including any dry dock) and if recovery for the disability or death through workmen's compensation proceedings may not validly be provided by State law.

The Amendments altered this to read:

Compensation shall be payable under this chapter in respect of disability or death of an employee, but only if the disability or death results from an injury occurring 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, or building a vessel).

In place of the definition of "employee" previously contained in § 902(3) as "not includ(ing) a master or member of a crew of any vessel, nor any person engaged by the master to load or unload or repair any small vessel under eighteen tons net," the Amendments defined the term as follows:

The term "employee" means any person engaged in maritime employment, including any...

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