Rodriguez v. Compass Shipping Company

RESPONDENT: Compass Shipping Company
LOCATION: Home of George Summers

DOCKET NO.: 79-1977
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 451 US 596 (1981)
ARGUED: Jan 12, 1981
DECIDED: May 18, 1981

Francis X. Byrn - for respondents
Joseph T. Stearns - for respondents
Martin Lassoff - for petitioners

Facts of the case


Media for Rodriguez v. Compass Shipping Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 12, 1981 in Rodriguez v. Compass Shipping Company

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you gentlemen.

The case is submitted.

We'll hear arguments next in Rodriguez and others against Compass Shipment Company.

Counsel, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Martin Lassoff:

Yes, Your Honor.

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Lassoff.

Martin Lassoff:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This is an appeal brought as a result of a conflict in the interpretation of part of a federal -- federal statute.

The conflict arises in the application of Section 933 (b) of an Act known as the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Act.

This Act was last amended by Congress in 1972 at which time Section 933 (b) was not amended.

Section 933 (b) was last amended in 1959 at which time it was amended to give the longshoreman an additional six months period to sue from the date of a formal award in compensation.

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Lassoff, might I interrupt your preliminary -- preliminary there.

I noticed that there are these -- there are three cases consolidated here and that in the Rodriguez case as opposed to the other two, there was a -- an order filed and in the other two there were none.

Does that have any bearing on the outcome in your view?

Martin Lassoff:

It does but this was not one of the points I was given certiorari on.

It is our -- it is our view in all three of these cases, there was never an order which triggered this mechanism, but that was not one of the points that we were given certiorari on.

The American Association of Trial Lawyers have raised that in their brief, but we didn't raise it in our brief for today.

William H. Rehnquist:

It's not before us?

Martin Lassoff:

It's not before you.

The point involved is who was this statute designed to protect?

Going back to the original basis in law, at one point, a longshoreman had to elect before the first payment of compensation whether or not he could sue a third party because if he accepted one payment of compensation, his rights to sue were assigned absolutely to his employer.

That changed until he was given the right to accept compensation short of an award.

If he, out of the words, if there was voluntary payment of compensation for a man who was out for six months and the employer voluntary pay that money, that would not give the case to his employer.

But if there was a hearing at which permanency was decided, and an order was entered, that order gave the case to the man's employer.

In 1957 I believe, this Court decided Blazey Czaplicki case which said that conflict of interest and Blazey Czaplicki was a very strong conflict of interest case.

The insurance carrier represented both parties to the litigation.

Therefore in 1959, Congress amended this Act and said, “You can keep your case Mr. Longshoreman until such a point as six months after a formal award because we have several interest here.

All of this is based on a quid pro quo between the longshoreman and the employer.

Nowhere is the shipping company or the shipping corporations mentioned they do not belong in the statute and they have never been mentioned until 1972 when an additional part of the statute was added called Section 905 (d).

What -- what was the intent?