9th Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 24, 2011

Feb 18, 2011 – Los Angeles, CA – Just one week after oral arguments were presented, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit issued its decision in California United Terminals vs. Towne. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the petition for the case to be reviewed, thus holding employers responsible for the injured party’s (the Claimant’s) litigation costs associated with successful prosecution of legitimate workers compensation claims. The 9th Circuit Court’s decision helps to preserve the purpose and integrity of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act – to provide fair and timely compensation to injured workers.

“We are pleased that the 9th Circuit is sending a clear message to employers and their insurance carriers – to stop denying legitimate claims by prolonging and increasing the cost of litigation,” said Charles D. Naylor of the Law Offices of Charles D. Naylor (http://www.NaylorLaw.com), a Los Angeles-based law firm specializing in maritime and admiralty law.

“Had the 9th Circuit ruled in favor of California United Terminals, it would have set legal precedent allowing employers to continue their practice of denying medical treatment and delaying payment of legitimate compensation claims.

It would have forced the injured worker to absorb the cost of the employer’s legal shenanigans, making the claims process too risky for injured workers and thus completely ineffective.”

California United Terminals is now likely to ask the United States Supreme Court to hear the case, which they must do within 90 days.

In 2002, Sandra Towne, a 59 year Marine Clerk, was diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, an injury that is most commonly the result of repetitive trauma over time. After conservative, non-surgical care failed, she needed surgery. Towne filed a claim to receive benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) which provides benefits including medical care compensation for temporary disability at 2/3 of average wages while off work and recovering. When her claim was denied, she retained Charles D. Naylor.

“The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act is meant to provide very basic level of compensation and it’s supposed to be made available to those that are injured without the need for an attorney or any litigation,” said Charles D. Naylor, who has represented Ms. Towne since 2002 and has handled hundreds of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act claims throughout his 35-year career.

While seeking conservative treatment, Towne continued to work on the waterfront. Like most longshore workers and marine clerks on the West Coast, Towne received work assignments at the union dispatch hall and often worked for a different employer from day to day.

The law applying the LHWCA is very clear on the following:

• The last employer where a worker is exposed to repetitive trauma is responsible to provide compensation benefits to a worker injured by repetitive trauma. • If the injured worker has to retain an attorney to collect benefits, and is ultimately successful, the employer is responsible for the Claimant’s attorney’s fees.

Two and a half years after she was diagnosed, Towne’s then employer, California United Terminals, Inc., agreed to pay for the surgery she needed after being joined in the litigation by the judge. In trial court, and before the Benefits Review Board, California United Terminals was ordered to pay all of Claimant’s attorney’s fees.

California United Terminals (CUT) took the case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. On February 8, 2011, CUT argued that they are only responsible for fees during a 13 day period, at most, out of the eight and one half years of litigation, and that the remainder should come out of Towne’s pocket.

The Law Offices of Charles D. Naylor, along with Joshua Gillelan II, Esq. of the Longshore Claimants’ National Law Center, represented Ms. Towne.

An audio transcript of the oral arguments and a copy of the Court’s decision (Memorandum) can be found on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals website. See the original press release by Charles D Naylor here

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