Hahn v. Ross Island Sand & Gravel Company

RESPONDENT: Ross Island Sand & Gravel Company
LOCATION: Sherry Frontenac

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 358 US 272 (1959)
ARGUED: Dec 11, 1958
DECIDED: Jan 12, 1959

Facts of the case


Media for Hahn v. Ross Island Sand & Gravel Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 11, 1958 (Part 1) in Hahn v. Ross Island Sand & Gravel Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 11, 1958 (Part 2) in Hahn v. Ross Island Sand & Gravel Company

Ray H. Lafky:

May it please the Court.

Hugo L. Black:

Mr. Lafky.

Ray H. Lafky:

This case is but another facet of workmen's compensation.

And in my 14 years of legal adviser to the Oregon Commission, I have gradually adjusted and adapted myself to the philosophy of the liberal construction of the law which must accorded all workmen's compensation actions to the growing field, the judicial expansion of the “twilight zone” which was enunciated in the Davis case.

There were more recent cases where the conflict comes between various state jurisdictions where this Court has permitted actions in both States.

And I think the “twilight zone” is certainly a proper judicial expansion of the philosophy of workmen's compensation.

Now, actually, as we compare, for I want to oversimplify the Longshore Act and the Workmen's Compensation Act of Oregon, each of them require a certainty of compensation in the first instance.

And if the employer fails to provide that certainty of compensation, the alternative of a negligence action is provided.

Let us assume that the factual reverse, that the action was under the Longshore Act and he had failed to provide his workmen under the benefits under the Longshore Act.

Then, if action were commenced there, could they say, “No, you have a definite right over into the workmen's compensation.

And also, you can't have a damage action.”

I think that that maybe an oversimplification.

I -- I did wish to answer Judge Stewart's question in -- under the Oregon law, an employer must bring all of his employees in a given occupation under -- he may have separate occupations and have one under and the other.

Potter Stewart:

What do this employer could do?

Ray H. Lafky:

This one had rejected, so he hadn't -- so far as I know, none of his --

Potter Stewart:

None of his --

Ray H. Lafky:

-- employees were subject to the Workmen's Compensation Law to the extent that they were entitled to compensation.

He could have, at any time withdrawn it and then his workmen would've been entitled to the compensation.

Now, if we were to deal on hypothesis and what can happen, there are two cases cited in the briefs.

One of which is Hess against the United States which have been cited by the respondent, 259 F. 2d 285.

That case involved six workmen on the face of Bonneville Dam who were preparing to repair the floodings and faces of the dam.

They set out from the Oregon shore.

They got too close to the spillway, five of them were drowned.

No question was raised by the Oregon Commission as to the maritime coverage on this particular case.

The employer was shore based, he was out there working on a fix structure but there was a barge, there was an instrument of navigation.

There was some delay of the question of whether Oregon or Washington should take.

I mention this case not because of the law involve but because of the factual situation.

That employer had lost his financial surety in the contract with the Government.

He had state compensation with both Washington and Oregon, but he had a very minimal policy to protect him against any possibility of maritime injury like possibly applied to the skipper of a tug who was drowned, but he was very dubious if it would apply to any of the other carpenters and so forth.

Now, what situation that we have there?