MBLB Wins Jurisdiction Case in Wake of New Orleans Depot Services, Inc.

We recently reported on the en banc 5th Circuit decision in New Orleans Depot Services, Inc. v. Director, OWCP, et al., 11-60057, 2013 WL 1798608 (5th Cir. Apr. 29, 2013).  Here at Mouledoux, Bland, Legrand & Brackett, we recently won a longshore jurisdictional case on summary decision regarding similar issues before the court in New Orleans Depot Services, Inc.

In this matter, Claimant filed a Motion for Summary Decision on the issue of longshore jurisdiction.  On behalf of the employer, we opposed Claimant’s Motion for Summary Decision and also filed Employer’s own Motion for Summary Decision requesting dismissal of the case for lack of jurisdiction.

In this matter, the ALJ noted that Employer’s facility was connected to the Mississippi River and ran northward from navigable waters. The Employer’s facility primarily transformed bauxite into alumina.  The Employer’s facility had a dock, which the ALJ noted would be proper maritime situs. Claimant was injured in a warehouse three-quarters of a mile away from the dock and the river with a road leading to the dock. From the dock, bauxite is unloaded from vessels and transported into a loading building and then the bauxite is further transported into the  plant for manufacturing into alumina.  A neighboring coke plant sits to the west of the Employer’s dock but does not separate the dock from the rest of Employer’s operation, including the warehouse in question.

The ALJ ruled that warehouse where Claimant was injured does not fall into one of the enumerated areas listed in the Longshore Act, thus the issue was whether the warehouse was an “other adjoining area” contiguous to the location of maritime operations.

The ALJ reasoned that Claimant was injured in a location not touching navigable waters, but Employer’s entire facility extended from the water.  Unlike prior cases where situs was met, Employer’s facility was not used primarily for unloading vessels. Employer manufactured bauxite into alumina. The bauxite manufacturing buildings with non-maritime related function existed between the dock and the warehouse where Claimant was injured. No case law suggested that an employer’s entire facility extending from the water would be a covered situs. The ALJ stated that a boundary must be drawn at some point from the shoreline moving inland, and the ALJ found that Employer’s entire facility cannot be considered a maritime situs. The warehouse where Claimant was injured was separated from the dock by many buildings not contributing to maritime activity. The connection to the dock and maritime activity was severed by the other operations being performed on Employer’s property.  Thus, the warehouse was not contiguous to the dock and had no geographical nexus sufficient to be an “other adjoining area.” Maritime situs was not found and therefore, no determination of status was necessary, as jurisdiction was not met without situs.  The ALJ ruled in Employer’s favor granting its Motion for Summary Decision, denying Claimant’s Motion for Summary Decision, and dismissing the case for lack of jurisdiction.

Bordelon v. Noranda Alumina, LLC, 2012-LHC-01312 (May 14, 2013).