Calbeck v. Travelers Insurance Company

PETITIONER: Calbeck
RESPONDENT: Travelers Insurance Company
LOCATION: Herricks School District

DOCKET NO.: 532
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 370 US 114 (1962)
ARGUED: Apr 23, 1962
DECIDED: Jun 04, 1962

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Calbeck v. Travelers Insurance Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 23, 1962 (Part 2) in Calbeck v. Travelers Insurance Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 23, 1962 (Part 1) in Calbeck v. Travelers Insurance Company

Earl Warren:

Number 532, C.D. Calbeck, Deputy Commissioner, et al., Petitioners, versus Travels -- Travelers Insurance Company et al.

Mr. Solicitor General.

Archibald Cox:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

These are two cases hereon certiorari to the Court of Appeals to the Fifth Circuit.

The question presented is whether injuries sustained by shipyard employees while working on vessels under construction but which have been launched and are float on navigable waters are compensable under the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Act.

The facts on which this question arises differ in immaterial respect for case to case but they are substantially identical, indeed identical in all material respect and the Travelers Insurance case, the first case, will serve to illustrate both.

The insured -- the Levingston Shipbuilding Company operated the shipyard on the Sabine River which flows between Texas and Louisiana.

It's engaged both in new constructions of new vessels and in the repair of vessels which are previously been put into service.

Unquestionably, many of its employees are engaged in maritime employment and therefore undeniably, Levingston was an employer covered by the Longshoremen's Act.

McGuyer, the employee who was killed was employed by Levingston as a welder to work indiscriminately at repairing vessels which had been in service or taken out of service for repairs and also at completing vessels which were under construction.

On the day in question, he was working on the superstructure of a building rig, a vessel which had been launched and was floating in the navigable waters of the Sabine River but it had not been completed and therefore had not been put into service.

There was an explosion and the cause of which is immaterial, McGuyer suffered very severe injuries of which a week later caused his death.

In seeking compensation for these injuries sustained in the course of his employment, McGuyer's family had to choose between seeking compensation under the federal statute or under the Texas Act which has agreed would've been the applicable state statute even though the injury happened to occur over on the Louisiana side of the river.

Under the Texas Act, the widow would receive $35 a week for 360 weeks.

That would be the maximum, or a total of $12,600.

Under the federal statute, the widow would receive in her own right something over $28 a week during her widowhood and an additional $12.15 a week for each of two children on account of their minority.

This would make a total maximum compensation to Mrs. McGuyer and the children of $83,500 or approximately six and half times to some payable under the Texas Act.

Mrs. McGuyer in fact filed claims under both the Texas and federal statutes but the Texas claim was expressly made subject to the claims under the Federal Act.

The Deputy Commissioner, conducting a hearing on the claim under the Federal Act at first found that this was not a covered injury.

The case was then carried by the widow to the District Court and while it was pending there, the Deputy Commissioner asked to have it remanded.

It was remanded.

The Deputy Commissioner then made a new finding and then awarded compensation to the widow and minor children.

That award was taken to the District Court by the Insurance Company, the respondent here.

The District Court ruled that they're -- McGuyer had been engaged in covered employment and that therefore the injury was compensable under the federal statute.

The gist of its opinion is at page 40 of the record.

The Court said in a short opinion, “Here, McGuyer's death arose out of it in the course of his employment and since Levingston had other employees engaged in maritime employment and since McGuyer's death admittedly occurred upon navigable waters of the United States.”

His widow and children are entitled to compensation under the Act.

So you're not -- the District Court made the right to compensation turn on three facts which we think are decisive.

First, that the Levingston Shipbuilding Company, the employer, admittedly had the employees engaged in maritime employment.

Second, that the injury occurred in the course of McGuyer's work and as a result of his employment.