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Maher Terminals, Inc. v. Director

May 29, 2003

MAHER TERMINALS, INC., PETITIONER
v.
DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION PROGRAMS; VINCENT RIGGIO RESPONDENTS



On Petition for Review Pursuant to 33 U.S.C. § 921(c) of the Decision and Order of the United States Department of Labor, Benefits Review Board, Entered June 28, 2001 (BRB Nos. 96-1136 and 00-960)

Before: Becker, Chief Judge,*fn1 Scirica, Circuit Judge *fn2 and SHADUR,*fn3 District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Becker, Circuit Judge

PRECEDENTIAL

Argued February 24, 2003

OPINION OF THE COURT

The sole question in this petition for review of the order of the United States Department of Labor, Benefits Review Board (the "Board") is whether the claimant, Vincent Riggio, is a covered maritime employee under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act, 33 U.S.C. § 901 et seq. (the "Act"). Riggio was employed by petitioner Maher Terminals, Inc. ("Maher") as both checker, a covered position, and delivery clerk, a job that is not covered by the Act. *fn4 Although Maher stipulated at oral argument that Riggio split his time evenly between these jobs, the company argues that Riggio is not covered by the Act because on the day of his injury he was working as a delivery clerk and was not subject to reassignment. In response, Riggio asks us to follow the reasoning of the Board and find him covered because although he was not working in a covered position on the day of his injury, he regularly engaged in covered maritime employment. Thus, Riggio submits, his job at Maher required him to spend "at least some of [his] time in indisputably longshoring operations," the test for coverage articulated by the Supreme Court in Northeast Marine Terminal Co. v. Caputo, 432 U.S. 249, 273 (1977).

We agree with Riggio's interpretation of the Act and will not adopt Maher's narrow interpretation of the Act's coverage analysis that would include only the day on which the claimant was injured. Instead, we believe that we must look at the claimant's regular duties to determine whether he is engaged on a regular basis in maritime employment. We will therefore deny Maher's petition for review.

I.

The facts are not disputed. On February 3, 1994, Riggio injured his left arm when he fell off a chair while working in the office of Berth 62 of Maher's port facilities in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Although he was employed as a delivery clerk on the day of his injury, Riggio split his time evenly between work as a checker and as a delivery clerk for Maher. *fn5 He was a member of the local checker's union and remained on Maher's permanent hire list, but not on a specified job list, so that the dock boss could assign him to a different job each day. When Riggio worked as a checker, he was required to be in the shipping lanes, but when employed as a delivery clerk, Riggio worked exclusively in the office entering data into a computer. In both jobs, his function was to handle paperwork for the in-coming and out-going cargo.

This case has a lengthy administrative history. Because the facts are not in dispute the sole issue in the administrative proceedings was the legal question whether Riggio's claim is covered under the Longshore & Harbor Workers Compensation Act, 33 U.S.C. § 901 et seq. The first administrative law judge ("ALJ") to hear the case, Judge Ainsworth Brown, denied coverage because he found that Riggio's job as a delivery clerk was excluded from coverage because it was a clerical position under 33 U.S.C. § 902(3)(A) (stating that "individuals employed exclusively to perform office clerical, secretarial, security, or data processing work" shall not be considered maritime employees covered by the Act). Judge Brown determined that even though Riggio also worked as a checker, this was insufficient to satisfy his burden of proving coverage under this court's decision in Maher Terminals, Inc. v. Farrell, 548 F.2d 476 (3d Cir. 1977) (holding that a delivery clerk is not covered under the Act).

On appeal, the Benefits Review Board vacated Judge Brown's denial of benefits. It noted that because Riggio also worked as a checker, he could not have been "exclusively" employed as a delivery clerk within the meaning of 33 U.S.C. § 902(3)(A). The Board remanded the case to the Office of Administrative Law Judges for further proceedings. Before the case was heard again, Maher petitioned this court for review of the Board's order, but we dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction. The parties also agreed on a stipulation resolving the medical and compensation issues subject to the final resolution of the coverage issue.

On remand, the case was assigned to a different ALJ, Judge Ralph A. Romano, whom the parties informed about their stipulation, although they did not ask him to enter the stipulation into the record at that time. Judge Romano held that a delivery clerk could be covered by the Act only if he were subject to reassignment as a checker during the course of a single workday. Since Riggio worked only as a delivery clerk on the day of his injury and did not demonstrate that he was subject to reassignment during that day, Judge Romano denied him coverage. Riggio appealed again to the Board, which rejected Judge Romano's "same day of injury" status test. Instead, the Board found Riggio to be covered because "he was assigned to work as a checker by [Maher] as a part of his regular duties," even though he did not work as a checker on the day of his injury or even in the two weeks previous. Accordingly, the Board reversed Judge Romano's order and remanded the case "for consideration of any remaining issues."

Within the mandated 60 day period to appeal, see 33 U.S.C. § 921(c), Maher filed a petition in this court for review of the Board's decision. Riggio subsequently filed a motion to hold briefing in abeyance pending the finalization of the stipulation referred to above regarding the amount recoverable upon resolution of the coverage issue. The final version of the stipulation read in relevant part:

There is dispute [sic] between claimant and employer as to the existence of jurisdiction under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. The employer does not concede the existence of such jurisdiction by reason of the execution of this stipulation. The parties agree, in the event of a finding of jurisdiction under the Act, that the injury has caused a permanent loss of use to the left upper extremity and that the claimant is entitle [sic] ...


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