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BUDSON COMPANY, CONTRACT 926 v. OIKARI

April 21, 1967

BUDSON COMPANY, CONTRACT 926 AND UNITED STATES FIDELITY & GUARANTY COMPANY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ELMER E. OIKARI AND GEORGE A. BYRNE, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, BUREAU OF EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION, TENTH COMPENSATION DISTRICT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Campbell, Chief Judge.

MEMORANDUM, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND JUDGMENT

The complaint herein seeks to review a compensation order under the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act as extended by the Defense Base Act. 42 U.S.C. § 1651 et seq.

All parties agree that there is no genuine issue of fact and accordingly all have filed motions for summary judgment, presenting the following questions of law.

1. The Application of the Defense Base Act

Claimant defendant was injured in his employment at Ladd Air Force Base, Alaska. The Defense Base Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1651(a)(2) at that time provided coverage for "any employment * * * upon any lands occupied or used by the United States for military or naval purposes in any Territory or possession outside the continental United States * * including Alaska * * *."

Claimant's injury occurred May 8, 1959, five months after Alaska was admitted to statehood. Had it occurred before statehood while Alaska was still a territory there is no question but that the claimant would have been covered by the provisions of the Defense Base Act. The claimant, joined by the Bureau of Employees Compensation, argues that the act remained in full force and effect until the adoption by Congress of the Alaska Omnibus Act of June 25, 1959, which act amended the Defense Base Act by deleting the reference to Alaska. Section 47(g) of the Omnibus Act provides in part:

The legal dispute centers on the meaning of the word may in the Omnibus Act. Claimant and the Bureau of Employment Compensation argue that during the six month interval between Alaska statehood and the effective date of the Omnibus Act a claimant had a choice of remedies, the Workmen's Compensation Act of Alaska and the Defense Base Act.

Plaintiffs argue that after statehood the application of the Defense Base Act terminated. They point out that under the provisions of the Statehood Act the territorial laws in force in the Territory of Alaska continued in full force and effect, including the Alaska Workmen's Compensation Act. The use of the key word may, according to plaintiffs was to approve the result achieved by the Alaska Statehood Act, which made the Alaska Compensation Act the sole remedy. Plaintiffs also point out that in other states local compensation acts are the sole remedy for employees on military bases. (40 U.S.C. § 290)

To rebut the position of plaintiffs, claimant and the Bureau of Employee Compensation appropriately cite Senate Report No. 331, 86th Congress, 1st Session, page 21, U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News p. 1675, which accompanied the Omnibus Act:

  "* * * On January 14, 1959, the Alaska Industrial
  Board announced that it would apply the Alaska
  Workmen's Compensation Act in the Federal domain
  in Alaska, effective January 3, 1959, the date of
  statehood, under the act of June 25, 1936 (49
  Stat. 1938), permitting such State action. A
  potential workmen's compensation liability
  exists, therefore, respecting employers of
  workers on Federal property in Alaska under both
  the Defense Base Act and the Alaska Workmen's
  Compensation Act.
  The purpose of the sections 40 and 42 is to
  preclude such dual liability by deleting
  reference to Alaska from the
  Defense Base Act and the War Hazards Act and
  adding a definition of "continental United
  States" to the acts to make it clear that Alaska
  comes within this term * * *.
  Subsection (g) of section 47 makes it clear that
  injuries occurring in employments subject to the
  Defense Base Act in Alaska after January 3, 1959,
  and until the effective date of amendments
  provided by the first two draft sections may be
  ...

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