Worker's widow must show nexus between injury, offshore operations
Case name: Pacific Operators Offshore, LLP, et al. v. Valladolid, et al., No. 10-507 (U.S. 01/11/12).
Ruling: The U.S. Supreme Court held that the widow of a worker killed on his employer's onshore facility could receive compensation under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act if she could establish a substantial nexus between his injury and his employer's extractive operations on the outer continental shelf.
What it means:
Under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, a worker's injury is compensable if he establishes a substantial nexus between his injury and his employer's extractive operations on the outer continental shelf.
A general manual laborer for an oil extracting and processing business worked a majority of the time on the business's offshore drilling platforms. While he was working onshore, he was killed in a forklift accident. His widow sought benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act pursuant to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. The U.S. Supreme Court held that the widow could be entitled to benefits if she could establish a substantial nexus between the laborer's injury and the business's extractive operations on the outer continental shelf. The Court sent the case to the benefits review board to apply the test.
LHWCA workers' compensation benefits are available for the "death of an employee resulting from any injury occurring as the result of operations conducted on the outer continental shelf" for the purpose of extracting natural resources. The parties disagreed about whether employees involved in extracting operators but not injured in the outer continental shelf were also covered.
The Court rejected the business's contention that the laborer was ineligible for benefits because he was injured on dry land and his death did not occur as a result of extraction operations. The Court explained that the language of the statute does not suggest that a worker's injury must occur on the outer continental shelf. The Court noted that many outer continental shelf platforms are physically connected to onshore processing facilities.
The Court concluded that a substantial nexus text was "faithful" to the language of the statute rather than a "situs-of-injury" or a "but for" test.
Two concurring justices opined that a showing of proximate cause was more appropriate than a substantial nexus standard.
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February 16, 2012
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