Case Law Update | Savoy v. WCAB (Pa. Cmwlth. August 25, 2016) | PA Work Injury

August 12, 2016

Savoy v. Workers Compensation Appeal WCAB (Global Associates). Here, the legal question was whether claimant (an electrician assigned to work on U.S. Navy vessels at the Philadelphia Navy Yard) was entitled to benefits under both the Workers’ Compensation Act and the Longshore Act when injured while performing ship repair (i.e., whether there was concurrent jurisdiction).


Takeaway: Concurrent jurisdiction was abolished in 2014 when the legislature amended Section 104 of the Workers’ Compensation Act excluding “persons subject to coverage under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act” from the definition of “Employee.” Act of June 18, 2014, P.L. 762 No. 63, as amended, 77 P.S. §22. Moreover, the Longshore Act contains a provision to prevent duplicate benefits for the same injury. 


Here, the 2014 amendment did not affect claimant’s case because his injury occurred before its effective date. Claimant, therefore, attempted to present evidence establishing that his injury occurred while in dry dock, rather than on navigable U.S. waters, triggering concurrent jurisdiction under the Workers’ Compensation Act. At claimant’s deposition, however, he responded to a question from employer’s counsel that the ship was actually on the water. The WCJ found claimant’s testimony credible to establish the vessel was on navigable U.S. waters at the time of his work injury and, therefore, held that claimant’s claim fell exclusively within the federal Longshore Act. WCAB affirmed the WCJ’s decision, holding that Claimant’s testimony established the crucial fact that the ship was “on the water” at the time of Claimant’s injury, as opposed to in dry dock.


The court affirmed the WCAB’s order concluding the WCJ did not err in determining the Longshore Act as Claimant’s exclusive remedy. The court agreed that claimant failed to present evidence that the ship was on a graven dry-dock at the time of his injury, but rather, had confirmed he was injured while performing the traditional maritime function of ship repair while the vessel was “on the water.” The court explained that claimant’s deposition testimony regarding the location of the ship at the time of his injury supported one conclusion: Longshore Act jurisdiction was exclusive.   



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