LOCATION: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
DOCKET NO.: 82-502
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
CITATION: 461 US 529 (1983)
ARGUED: Apr 25, 1983
DECIDED: May 23, 1983
Thomas W. Gallagher - on behalf of the Respondent
William D. Carle, III - on behalf of the Petitioner
Facts of the case
Media for Pallas Shipping Agency, Ltd. v. Duris
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 25, 1983 in Pallas Shipping Agency, Ltd. v. Duris
Warren E. Burger:
We will hear arguments next in the case of Pallas Shipping Agency, Ltd. against Joseph Duris.
Mr. Carle, you may proceed whenever you are ready.
William D. Carle, III:
Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.
The issue in this case is whether the voluntary acceptance of compensation plus the filing and review of certain documents by the Deputy Commissioner is sufficient to trigger the assignment provisions of Section 33(b) of the Longshoremen's and Harborworker's Compensation Act.
Secondarily, whether under the circumstances of this case there is a conflict of interest which, between the employer and the employee, which would preclude an assignment under Section 33(b).
It is the petitioner's position in this case that the Sixth Circuit Decision is erroneous, that it misapplied the law as it relates to Section 33(b) and applied... relied to a great extent upon conflict of interest principles which this court has held are not applicable in the classic situation that exists between the longshoreman and his employer.
I would like to discuss just briefly the facts.
Mr. Duris was injured in May of 1975.
Shortly thereafter the stevedore employer commenced benefits to Mr. Duris which were paid either bi-weekly or weekly for a period of two years through April 28, 1977.
At that time, Mr. Duris had recovered and returned to work and payments were stopped or suspended and a form filed with the Department of Labor.
We also know, at this point, in time that during the intervening period, or during that period between '75 and '77, that there was a formal claim filed by Mr. Duris and certain other informal conferences, or a conference held with all of the parties represented.
On April 8, 1980, the lawsuit with which we are here concerned was commenced and on Februay 25, 1983, Duris received a final award.
Throughout the entire compensation proceedings and otherwise, Duris has been represented by competent counsel.
I would like, at this point, to give you an overview of what our argument is going to be in this case.
It is petitioner's contention, first, that Section 33(b) of the Act contemplates an assignment in each and every case.
Secondly, that the congressional hearings at the time of the amendments indicate that the assignment should take place within a reasonable time after the inception of each claim.
Third, that formal compensation orders are not required to constitute an award.
Four, I think it is important that the quid pro quo of the Act be maintained in balance.
And five, that Congress, when it amended the Act, certainly did not contemplate eight years between injury and assignment.
The Sixth Circuit's decision in this case, we submit, is erroneous in that it took an unduly restrictive approach to the question at hand.
The Sixth Circuit started its opinion and discussion of the legal issues by summarily disposing of two cases from another Circuit which it stated it simply would not follow.
These cases had held that some act of ratification of compensation plus the filing of documents and acceptance of compensation by the longshoreman was sufficient to constitute an award under the Act and specifically 33(b).
These same documents were filed of record in the Duris case and the court gave absolutely no consideration to them in considering whether there should have been an award.
As a matter of fact, I don't even find them mentioned in the opinion of the court.
Sandra Day O'Connor:
Mr. Carle, would you agree that the statutory term compensation order is a term of art as it's used elsewhere in the Longshoremen's and Harborworker's Act?
William D. Carle, III:
That troubles me on the term of art.
I don't believe it's a term of art, really, because you find as you read the act they use the term compensation order, they use the term order, depending upon what subject they're attempting to approach.
And I just hardly think that it's a term of art, at least in the sense that I understand what is meant by a term of art.
Sandra Day O'Connor:
I think the Solicitor General's brief indicated support for that concept and I wondered if that were true, why the same meaning wouldn't carry forward in Section 33(b).