Employment Insufficient to Trigger Application of the LHWCA

A worker was injured while working in a grassy area between thirty and one hundred feet from a boat launching ramp being built on Bayou Teche, a navigable waterway.  The injured worker filed a Louisiana State workers’ compensation claim with his direct employer.  The claim was denied by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier on the grounds that the injured worker was a longshoreman, and that benefits were therefore owed under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (“LHWCA”), and not under the Louisiana’s state workers’ compensation laws.

In granting summary judgment to the statutory employer, the workers’ compensation judge found that the injured worker’s claims were not governed by the LHWCA.  The judge reasoned that the injured worker was hired for construction purposes and was performing construction work, and that the work he was doing was on land.

The direct employer appealed the worker’s compensation judge’s ruling on the grounds that the judge erred in finding that the LHWCA did not apply.  The appellate court applied the standard set forth in Herb’s Welding and affirmed the workers’ compensation judge’s ruling.  The court found that although the injured worker was performing work on property used to construct physical reinforcements to stabilize the earth around a boat launch, this did not automatically qualify him as a maritime employee.  The injured worker’s activities were directed toward land, not water, and his duties were insufficient to trigger application of the LHWCA.

Hernandez v. Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Corp.