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HERB'S WELDING v. GRAY ET AL.

decided: March 18, 1985; As Amended.

HERB'S WELDING, INC., ET AL
v.
GRAY ET AL.



CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT.

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. 428.

Author: White

[ 470 U.S. Page 415]

 JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA or Act), 44 Stat. 1424, as amended, 33 U. S. C. § 901 et seq., provides compensation for the death or disability of any person engaged in "maritime employment," § 902(3), 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, § 903(a).*fn1 Thus, a worker claiming under the Act must satisfy

[ 470 U.S. Page 416]

     both a "status" and a "situs" test. The court below held that respondent Robert Gray, a welder working on a fixed offshore oil-drilling platform in state territorial waters, was entitled to benefits under the Act. We reverse for the reason that Gray was not engaged in maritime employment.

I

Respondent Gray worked for Herb's Welding, Inc., in the Bay Marchand oil and gas field off the Louisiana coast. Herb's Welding provided welding services to the owners of drilling platforms. The field was located partly in Louisiana territorial waters, i. e., within three miles of the shore, and partly on the Outer Continental Shelf. Gray ate and slept on a platform situated in Louisiana waters. He spent roughly three-quarters of his working time on platforms in state waters and the rest on platforms on the Outer Continental Shelf. He worked exclusively as a welder, building and replacing pipelines and doing general maintenance work on the platforms.

On July 11, 1975, Gray was welding a gas flow line on a fixed platform*fn2 located in Louisiana waters. He burnt

[ 470 U.S. Page 417]

     through the bottom of the line and an explosion occurred. Gray ran from the area, and in doing so hurt his knee. He sought benefits under the LHWCA for lost wages, disability, and medical expenses.*fn3 When petitioner United States Fidelity & Guaranty Co., the workers' compensation carrier for Herb's Welding, denied LHWCA benefits, Gray filed a complaint with the Department of Labor. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), relying on our decision in Rodrigue v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 395 U.S. 352 (1969), ruled that because Gray's work was totally involved in the exploration for, and development and transmission of, oil and gas from submerged lands, it was not relevant to traditional maritime law and lacked any significant maritime connection. Gray therefore did not satisfy the LHWCA's status requirement.

The Benefits Review Board reversed on other grounds. 12 BRBS 752 (1980). By a vote of 2-1, it concluded that irrespective of the nature of his employment, Gray could recover by virtue of a provision of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 67 Stat. 462, 43 U. S. C. § 1331 et seq. (Lands Act), that

[ 470 U.S. Page 418]

     grants LHWCA benefits to offshore oil workers injured on the Outer Continental Shelf.*fn4 Although Gray had been injured in state waters, the Board felt that his injury nonetheless could be said to have occurred, in the words of the statute, "as a result of" operations on the outer shelf. It considered his work "integrally related" to such operations. 12 BRBS, at 757. The dissenting Board member argued that the Lands Act provides LHWCA benefits only for injuries actually occurring in the geographic area of the outer shelf. Id., at 761-763.

The Board reaffirmed its position after the case was remanded to the ALJ for entry of judgment and calculation of benefits, and petitioners sought review in the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. That court affirmed, relying directly on the LHWCA rather than on the Lands Act. 703 F.2d 176 (1983). With regard to the Act's situs requirement, it noted that this Court had compared drilling platforms to wharves in Rodrigue v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., supra. Given that the 1972 Amendments to the LHWCA extended coverage to accidents occurring on wharves, it would be incongruous if they did not also reach accidents occurring on drilling platforms. Also, since workers injured on movable barges, on fixed platforms on the Outer Continental Shelf, or en route to fixed platforms, are all covered, there would be a "curious hole" in coverage if someone in Gray's position was not. 703 F.2d, at 177-178. As for Gray's status, the Court of Appeals, differing with the ALJ, held that Gray's work bore "a realistically significant

[ 470 U.S. Page 419]

     relationship to traditional maritime activity involving navigation and commerce on navigable waters," id., at 179-180, because it was an integral part of the offshore drilling process, which, the court had held in Pippen v. Shell Oil Co., 661 F.2d 378 (1981), was itself maritime commerce. We granted certiorari. 465 U.S. 1098 (1984).

II

A

When extractive operations first moved offshore, all claims for injuries on fixed platforms proceeded under state workers' compensation schemes. See Hearings, at 396, 409, 411. See also Robertson 993. With the 1953 passage of the Lands Act, Congress extended LHWCA coverage to oil workers more than three miles offshore. 43 U. S. C. § 1333(b). Because until 1972 the LHWCA itself extended coverage only to accidents occurring on navigable waters, 33 U. S. C. § 903 (1970 ed.), and because stationary rigs were considered to be islands, Rodrigue v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., supra, oil rig workers inside the 3-mile limit were left to recover under state schemes. See, e. g., Freeman v. Chevron Oil Co., 517 F.2d 201 (CA5 1975); Gifford v. Aurand Mfg. Co., 207 So. 2d 160 (La. App. 1968). Any worker, inside or outside the 3-mile limit, who qualified as a seaman was not covered by the LHWCA, but could sue under the Jones Act, 46 U. S. C. § 688, the Death on the High Seas Act, 46 U. S. C. § 761 et seq., and the general maritime law. Hearings, at 411-414, 450-459, 487; see n. 1, supra. See also Wright, Jurisdiction in the Tidelands, 32 Tulane L. Rev. 175, 186 (1958).

So matters stood when Congress amended the LHWCA in 1972. What is known about the congressional intent behind that legislation has been amply described in our prior opinions. See, e. g., Director, OWCP v. Perini North River Associates, 459 U.S. 297 (1983); Sun Ship, Inc. v. Pennsylvania, 447 U.S. 715, 717-722 (1980); Northeast Marine

[ 470 U.S. Page 420]

     B

The rationale of the Court of Appeals was 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. Since it is doubtful that an offshore driller will pay and maintain a worker on an offshore rig whose job is unnecessary to the venture, this approach would extend coverage to virtually everyone on the stationary platform. We think this construction of the Act is untenable.

The Act does not define the term "maritime employment," but our cases and the legislative history of the amendments foreclose the Court of Appeals' reading. Rodrigue involved two men killed while working on an offshore drilling rig on the Outer Continental Shelf. Their families brought third-party negligence suits in federal court, claiming recovery under both the Death on the High Seas Act and the state law of Louisiana. The District Court ruled that resort could not be had to state law and that the High Seas Act provided the exclusive remedy. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that the men had been engaged in maritime activity on the high seas and that maritime law was the exclusive source of relief. We reversed. First, the platforms involved were artificial islands and were to be treated as though they were federal enclaves in an upland State. Federal law was to govern accidents occurring on these islands; but, contrary to the Court of Appeals, we held that the Lands Act and borrowed state law, not the maritime law, constituted the controlling federal law. The platforms "were islands, albeit artificial ones, and the accidents had no more connection with the ordinary stuff of admiralty than do

[ 470 U.S. Page 422]

     accidents on piers."*fn6 395 U.S., at 360. Indeed, observing that the Court had previously "held that drilling platforms are not within admiralty jurisdiction," we indicated that drilling platforms were not even suggestive of traditional maritime affairs. Id., at 360-361.

We also went on to examine the legislative history of the Lands Act and noted (1) that Congress was of the view that maritime law would not apply to fixed platforms unless a statute expressly so provided; and (2) that Congress had seriously considered applying maritime law to these platforms but had rejected that approach because it considered maritime law to be inapposite, a view that would be untenable if drilling from a fixed platform is a maritime operation. The history of the Lands Act at the very least forecloses the Court of Appeals' holding that offshore drilling is a maritime activity and that any task essential thereto is maritime employment for LHWCA purposes.*fn7

We cannot assume that Congress was unfamiliar with Rodrigue and the Lands Act when it referred to "maritime employment" in defining the term "employee" in 1972.*fn8 It

[ 470 U.S. Page 423]

     would have been a significant departure from prior understanding to use that phrase to reach stationary drilling rigs generally.

The Fifth Circuit's expansive view of maritime employment is also inconsistent with our prior cases under the 1972 Amendments to the LHWCA. The expansion of the definition of navigable waters to include rather large shoreside areas necessitated an affirmative description of the particular employees working in those areas who would be covered. This was the function of the maritime employment requirement. But Congress did not seek to cover all those who breathe salt air. Its purpose was to cover those workers on the situs who are involved in the essential elements of loading and unloading; it is "clear that persons who are on the situs but not engaged in the overall process of loading or unloading vessels are not covered." Northeast Marine Terminal Co. v. Caputo, 432 U.S., at 267. While "maritime employment" is not limited to the occupations specifically mentioned in § 2(3),*fn9 neither can it be read to eliminate any requirement

[ 470 U.S. Page 424]

     of a connection with the loading or construction of ships. As we have said, the "maritime employment" requirement is "an occupational test that focuses on loading and unloading." P. C. Pfeiffer Co. v. Ford, 444 U.S. 69, 80 (1979). The Amendments were not meant "to cover employees who are not engaged in loading, unloading, repairing, or building a vessel, just because they are injured in an area adjoining navigable waters used for such activity." H. R. Rep. No. 92-1441, p. 11 (1972); S. Rep. No. 92-1125, p. 13 (1972). We have never read "maritime employment" to extend so far beyond those actually involved in moving cargo between ship and land transportation. Both Caputo and P. C. Pfeiffer Co. make this clear and lead us to the conclusion that Gray was not engaged in maritime employment for purposes of the LHWCA.*fn10

[ 470 U.S. Page 425]

     Gray was a welder. His work had nothing to do with the loading or unloading process, nor is there any indication that he was even employed in the maintenance of equipment used in such tasks. Gray's welding work was far removed from traditional LHWCA activities, notwithstanding the fact that he unloaded his own gear upon arriving at a platform by boat. Tr. of Oral Arg. 56. He built and maintained pipelines and the platforms themselves. There is nothing inherently maritime about those tasks. They are also performed on land, and their nature is not significantly altered by the marine environment,*fn11 particularly since exploration and development of the Continental Shelf are not themselves maritime commerce.

The dissent emphasizes that Gray was generally on or near the water and faced maritime hazards. Post, at 445-449. To the extent this is so, it is relevant to "situs," not "status." To hold that Gray was necessarily engaged in maritime employment because he was on a drilling platform would ignore Congress' admonition that not everyone on a covered situs automatically satisfies the status test. See S. Rep. No. 92-1125, p. 13 (1972). The dissent considers "[the] maritime nature of the occupation . . . apparent from examining

[ 470 U.S. Page 426]

     its location in terms of the expanded situs coverage of the 1972 Amendments." Post, at 446. We recognize that the nature of a particular job is defined in part by its location. But to classify Gray's employment as maritime because he was on a covered situs, post, at 448, or in a "maritime environment," post, at 450, would blur together requirements Congress intended to be distinct. We cannot thus read the status requirement out of the statute.*fn12

III

Respondents, and the dissenters, object that denying coverage to someone in Gray's position will result in exactly the sort of inconsistent, checkered coverage that Congress sought to eliminate in 1972. In the words of the court below, it creates a "curious hole" in coverage, 703 F.2d, at 178, because Gray would have been covered had he been injured on navigable waters or on the outer shelf.

We do not find the argument compelling. First, this submission goes far beyond Congress' undoubted desire to treat equally all workers engaged in loading or unloading a ship, whether they were injured on the ship or on an adjoining pier or dock. The former were covered prior to 1972; the latter were not. Both are covered under the 1972 Amendments. Second, there will always be a boundary to coverage, and there will always be people who cross it during their employment. Nacirema Operating Co. v. Johnson, 396 U.S. 212, 223-224 (1969). If that phenomenon was enough to require coverage, the Act would have to reach much further than

[ 470 U.S. Page 427]

     anyone argues that it does or should. Third, the inconsistent coverage here results primarily from the explicit geographic limitation to the Lands Act's incorporation of the LHWCA. Gray would indeed have been covered for a significant portion of his work-time, but because of the Lands Act, not because he fell within the terms of the LHWCA.*fn13 Congress' desire to make LHWCA coverage uniform reveals little about the position of those for whom partial coverage results from a separate statute. This is ...


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