U.S. Supreme Court
Herb's Welding, Inc. v. Gray, 470 U.S. 414 (1985)
Herb's Welding, Inc. v. Gray
Argued October 3, 1984
Decided March 18, 1985
470 U.S. 414
The Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), as amended in 1972, provides compensation for the death or disability of any person engaged in "maritime employment" (status requirement), if the disability or death results from an injury incurred upon the navigable waters of the United States or any adjoining pier or other area customarily used by an employer in loading, unloading, repairing, or building a vessel (situs requirement). Respondent Gray (hereinafter respondent), who worked for petitioner Herb's Welding, Inc., was injured while welding a gas flow line on a fixed offshore oil-drilling platform in Louisiana territorial waters. When petitioner United States Fidelity & Guaranty Co., the workers' compensation carrier for Herb's Welding, Inc., denied LHWCA benefits, respondent filed a complaint with the Department of Labor. Administrative proceedings ultimately resulted in the conclusion that respondent could recover by virtue of a provision of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (Lands Act) that grants LHWCA benefits to offshore oil workers injured on the Outer Continental Shelf, since, even though respondent had been injured in state waters, rather than on the shelf, his injury could be said to have occurred "as a result of" operations on the shelf. The Court of Appeals affirmed, but relied directly on the LHWCA, rather than on the Lands Act, concluding that both the status and the situs requirements of the LHWCA were met.
Held: Because respondent's employment was not "maritime," he does not qualify for benefits under the LHWCA. Pp. 470 U. S. 419-427.
(a) The Court of Appeals' construction of the LHWCA -- that offshore drilling is maritime commerce and that anyone performing any task that is part and parcel of that activity is in maritime employment for LHWCA purposes -- is foreclosed by earlier decisions of this Court, and the legislative history of both the 1972 Amendments to the LHWCA and the Lands Act. Congress' purpose under the 1972 Amendments to the LHWCA was to cover those workers on a covered situs who are involved in the essential elements of the loading or unloading, or construction, of vessels. Respondent's welding work was far removed from such traditional LHWCA activities. Pp. 470 U. S. 421-426.
(b) The argument that to deny coverage to someone in respondent's position would result in the sort of inconsistent, checkered coverage that Congress sought to avoid in 1972 is not compelling. The inconsistent chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
coverage here results primarily from the explicit geographic limitations to the Lands Act's incorporation of the LHWCA. If Congress' coverage decisions are mistaken as a matter of policy, it is for Congress to change them. 470 U. S. 426-427.
WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and POWELL, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, BLACKMUN, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, post p. 470 U. S. 428.