Morganti v. Lockheed Martin - U.S. Supreme Court refuses to upset Kreindler & Kreindler LLP's victory for workers injured on Navigable Waters, leading to confidential settlement.
The case involved an employee of Lockheed Martin Corporation, who drowned on Cayuga Lake in upstate New York, after a wave swept him into the water while working on a research barge moored in the middle of the lake. The victim's widow filed a claim for death benefits under the LHWCA, which was opposed by Lockheed Martin on the grounds that her husband was not a "maritime employee," and the barge was a fixed platform, more like an artificial island. An administrative law judge found that the victim was only transiently and fortuitously on navigable waters and denied the claim. That decision was appealed to the Benefits Review Board, which reversed the denial of benefits. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed, and rejected Lockheed Martin's transient and fortuitous argument, holding that only two factors had to be satisfied under the Act: situs (navigable waters) and status (employee). Lockheed pressed its argument to the United States Supreme Court, which rejected its appeal.
The original LHWCA was passed in 1927 to provide a scheme of compensation for maritime workers who may fall outside state worker compensation schemes. It remains a useful tool workers injured on navigable waters, even those employees who don't have a traditional maritime purpose. The Act permits compensation far beyond that granted by state workers' compensation laws.