NOVEMBER 23, 2011 by Ogletree Abbott
Jones Act Lawyer Showed Employer’s “Voluntary” Comp Payments Didn’t End Other Rights
An injured worker had accepted voluntary compensation payments from his employer under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Act (LHWCA). Some months later, with no real warning, the employer just stopped making the payments, and the worker contacted a Jones Act lawyer. The question became whether or not the worker could still bring a seaman’s Jones Act claim for damages, after having received LHWCA payments.
The Deputy Commissioner (DC’s review LHWCA claims) charged that the injured worker in this case was somehow ‘wrongfully’ trying to make an abrupt “about face.” The Jones Act lawyer for the employee put it in simple terms, though, and believed the Jones Act (and not the LHWCA) actually applied. The DC also raised a highly technical reason to try and keep a federal court from making any decision in the matter, the Jones Act lawyer pointed out….the DC claimed the case really came down to only a “factual” question. This would mean, said the Jones Act lawyer, the DC was saying courts “must” follow the DC’s findings, whether the court “agrees” with the DC’s factual conclusions or not. Yet, the Jones Act lawyer was to successfully emphasize that “(t)here was nothing ‘sinister’ or suspicious about a worker who was disabled, deciding to go to a Jones Act lawyer to get his rights by whatever lawful remedies are available.” To make that happen, the Jones Act lawyer appealed the DC’s ruling into federal court.
The circumstances, the Jones Act lawyer was to point out, don’t justify stopping an injured employee from proving whether he was covered by the Jones Act (or put another way, not covered by the LHWCA). Instead, the evidence from the Jones Act lawyer showed that the employer voluntarily made payments under the LHWCA and then just “quit.” Then, the injured worker filed a formal claim, through a Jones Act lawyer, for additional benefits and for a decision on Jones Act coverage.
Jones Act Lawyer Forced Full Investigation of Jones Act Coverage On Seaman Status
At the Jones Act lawyer’s request, an appeals Judge reviewed the DC’s decision. That judge agreed with the Jones Act lawyer, and ordered a remand of the case to the DC, for a full hearing on the question of “seaman status.” The Jones Act lawyer introduced testimony, witnesses, and evidence during a two-day hearing. The DC only then found that the injured worker “was not a member of a crew of the vessel,” but was supposedly included under the coverage of the LHWCA.
Jones Act Lawyer Showed Other Court Cases Consistently Allowed Jones Act Suit To Follow LHWCA Claims
The Jones Act lawyer noted that the rule of allowing ‘successive’ Jones Act/LHWCA claims, when tested “the other way,” hadn’t prevented a Jones Act suit. The Jones Act lawyer noted several cases where an injured employee had first brought a Jones Act claim, and later sought an award under the LHWCA, as a result of a second accident under the same employer. This situation, emphasized the Jones Act lawyer, had even been approved by the US Supreme Court itself. It was “logical” for allowing the process to “work both ways.”
The Jones Act lawyer also noted the public and legal policies, which not only allowed, but encouraged flexible protection for seamen. Congress’s policy was clearly indicated in what the appeals court itself described as “unmistakable terms,” when “master and member” of the crew were covered only by the Jones Act. The maritime unions also stepped into the debate about preferring the Jones Act, and said the Jones Act is “superior to the relief afforded by the LHWCA.”
The federal court strongly agreed with the Jones Act lawyer, and concluded that “neither the facts nor the law supports a finding of presenting” a Jones Act suit after an LHWCA claim in this case. That court took the decision away from the DC and allowed Jones Act coverage. As rights for seamen have gradually improved, there occur conflicts between whether the LHWCA or the Jones Act actually applies. In this case, for some reason, the DC harbored a motive for trying to discourage a Jones Act suit by the seaman, through his Jones Act lawyer. These are among the vital details to be worked out, sooner rather than “later,” by meeting with an experienced Jones Act lawyer.