Sun Ship, Inc. v. Pennsylvania

PETITIONER: Sun Ship, Inc.
RESPONDENT: Pennsylvania
LOCATION: E.L. Aaron & Co., Inc.

DOCKET NO.: 79-343
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 447 US 715 (1980)
ARGUED: Apr 14, 1980
DECIDED: Jun 23, 1980

Jeffery C. Hayes - for appellant
Joseph Lurie - for appellees

Facts of the case


Media for Sun Ship, Inc. v. Pennsylvania

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 14, 1980 in Sun Ship, Inc. v. Pennsylvania

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in Sun Ship Company against Pennsylvania.

Mr. Hayes, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Jeffery C. Hayes:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case involves an appeal from a final judgment of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania which affirmed awards to claimant appellees for facial disfigurement under the Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act.

The question presented to this Court today is whether Pennsylvania may constitutionally award benefits under its state workmen's compensation law for injuries to maritime workers covered by the Longshoremen's Act as amended in 1972.

The central facts necessary to the resolution of the question are not in dispute in this Court.

Sun Ship is an employer within the meaning of the Longshoremen's Act.

It is engaged in shipbuilding and ship repair activities at its facilities adjoining the Delaware River, a navigable water of the United States.

Each of the claimants, at the time of his injury, was employed by Sun Ship, and was engaged in maritime employment, either shipbuilding or ship repair, and as an employee within the meaning of the Longshoremen's Act.

In addition, each of the appellees were injured upon the navigable waters of the United States as that term has been defined in both Sections 3 (a) of the amended Longshoremen's Act, its covering provisions, and in Section 24 which defines employer.

It is further undisputed that the injuries involved here fall within the coverage of the Longshoremen's Act.

Every administrative tribunal below and the court below so found and it has never been in question here and indeed it's conceded by appellees in this Court.

We submit that the judgment of the court below must be reversed because upon analysis of the amended Longshoremen's Act, the legislative history to the 1972 amendments and consideration of the State's purposes and objectives, it is evident that the Congress intended to preempt the application of state workmen's compensation laws when enacted the 1972 amendments to the Longshoremen's Act as those laws might apply to maritime workers injured upon the navigable waters of the United States.

In addition to the extent that a review of the Longshoremen's Act and the Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act reveals both a general and in the very instance of this case, specific conflicts with the regulatory scheme determined to apply by Congress, the Pennsylvania Act must yield.

Potter Stewart:

You have told us that in this case, it's conceded that the -- that the respondents were within the coverage of the federal statute.

Jeffery C. Hayes:

Yes sir.

Potter Stewart:

Because of the location of their injuries as well as their status.

There might be questions under -- in some situations, might there not, as to whether or not the federal statute did cover?

Jeffery C. Hayes:

Yes, sir.

On question -- yes, Mr. Justice Stewart, there is no question that there are questions about the jurisdiction of the Longshoremen's Act --

Potter Stewart:

About -- that it's covered.

Jeffery C. Hayes:

-- at the edges of federal coverage.

Potter Stewart:

And therefore, wherever the line may be under -- there -- there's going to be a twilight zone, I suppose.

Isn't there?

Jeffery C. Hayes:

Well Your Honor it -- it's certainly possible.

The concept that there is going to be an edge of the federal jurisdiction and there maybe cases which fall close to that line which may give occasion to courts to consider on which side of the line and a -- a Davis kind of resolution of those conflicts might result.

But of course, in the course of amending the Longshoremen's Act, Congress substantially removed those problems at least in the context of shipbuilding and ship repair operations because it moved the line away from the water's edge which had been the most troublesome line of all.

Potter Stewart:

But there still is a line.

Jeffery C. Hayes:

Yes, sir.

There is still a line.