Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ferry Worker for State Transportation District Denied LHWCA Benefits

Gale Wheaton was a ferry repairman and mechanic for the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway & Transportation District (“District”) who suffered a back injury working aboard a vessel on navigable waters.

The ALJ found that the District was a subdivision of the State of California and therefore was excluded from coverage. On appeal the parties agreed that the District is not an arm of the state entitled to the protections of the Eleventh Amendment nor entitled to state sovereign immunity from federal claims. They also agree that, under California law, the District has the status of a local public agency such as a county or municipality.

In Tyndzik,v Director OWCP the 9th Circuit held the University of Guam was not a subdivision of a state under LONGSHORE. The University was created by the legislature, had a Board of Regents appointed by the legislature, and had a budget controlled by the legislature. However, it held the University was not a subdivision of Guam because the Guam government did not otherwise control the University, and the University could not perform basic government functions on its own, viz., take property by eminent domain, enact ordinances, or impose taxes.

The court upheld the ALJ’s determination, affirmed by the Board, that the District is a subdivision of the state as reasonable. And thus gave no cover under LONGSHORE due to the government exclusion.