X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS: Randall Thibodeaux was injured while working on a fixed oil production platform in Louisiana’s territorial waters. The platform rested on wood pilings driven into a small bank, straddling water and marsh, but it was accessible only by boat. There were two docking areas for such boats. Thibodeaux’s injury occurred when he jumped down from one part of the platform to a deck below. The wood on the deck gave way, and Thibodeux fell through into the marsh, piercing his hand on a nail as he fell. Thibodeaux filed a claim against his employer, Grasso Production Management under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. The Department of Labor Benefits Review Board denied Thibodeaux benefits, concluding that the platform was not a covered situs under 33 U.S.C. �903(a) of the LHWCA. HOLDING: Affirmed. The situs requirement of �903(a) is satisfied where an injury occurs “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, dismantling, or building a vessel).” The sole issue as described by the court is whether a fixed oil production platform built on pilings over marsh and water and inaccessible from land constitutes either a “pier”or an “other adjoining area” within the meaning of � 903(a). The court points out that it has typically followed a functional approach to questions construing the parenthetical phrase in �903(a). The court goes on to review in detail other cases that have interpreted the same phrase. For instance, the court in Hurston v. Dir., Office of Workers Comp. Programs, 989 F.2d 1547 (9 thCir. 1993), held that identity was determined by appearance. It decided that the word “pier” was intended to have a broad meaning, extending to any structure built on pilings extending from land to navigable water. The Hurst court said if the word was to be construed narrowly, there would have been a comma between the phrases “other adjoining area” and “customarily used.” “Even assuming the Hurston court is correct in its grammatical reading of �903(a),” the court in this court states, “its conclusion does not follow from its premise. To hold as a matter of grammar and punctuation that the phrase beginning”customarily used’ does not modify “pier” is quite different from holding as a matter of law that the term “pier” derives no meaning from its context in a maritime statute, and that the term’s statutory meaning extends to the outer limits of its meaning in ordinary language.” The court agrees with the board of review that it does not need to read the phrase “customarily used”as modifying “pier” in order to conclude that the term “pier” in �903(a) does not include every conceivable structure built on pilings over land and water, but rather only those serving some maritime purpose. The court reiterates the LHWCA’s purpose of providing injured workers engaged in maritime employment, noting too that the other terms in �903(a) ” wharf, dry dock, terminal, building way, and marine railway” connote maritime commerce. The court finds that in interpreting the statute with the purpose of the LHWCA in mind, “status” is more important than “situs.” For example, the U.S. Supreme Court stated in a footnote in Rodrigue v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 395 U.S. 352 (1969), that fixed oil production platforms are islands. Though in the context of admiralty jurisdiction, the court, it was later confirmed in the LHWCA context by Herb’s Welding Inc. v. Gray, 470 U.S. 414 (1985). “Herb’s Welding’s insistence that oil production platforms be considered islands even outside of the narrow issue of admiralty jurisdiction, together with the statutory analysis above, provides ample support for holding that the oil production platform at issue in this case is not a pier, even though it may possess a few of the basic physical attributes of a pier.” Having concluded that in order to be a pier within the meaning of the LHWCA, a structure must serve some maritime purpose, the court then concludes that the platform in this case did not meet the standard. Oil is not shipped from the platform, for instance. And although personal gear and supplies are unloaded at docking areas on the platform, the purpose of the platform is to further drilling for oil and gas, which is not a maritime purpose. Nor did Thibodeaux’s injury occur in an “other adjoining area customarily used by an employer in loading, unloading, repairing, dismantling, or building a vessel.” OPINION: Magill, J.; Jones, Magill and Smith, JJ.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 3 articles* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.