Thomas v. Washington Gas Light Company

PETITIONER: Thomas
RESPONDENT: Washington Gas Light Company
LOCATION: U.S. Department of Labor

DOCKET NO.: 79-116
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 448 US 261 (1980)
ARGUED: Mar 19, 1980
DECIDED: Jun 27, 1980

ADVOCATES:
Alan I. Horowitz - on behalf of Federal Respondent supporting the Petitioner
James F. Green - on behalf of the Petitioner
Kevin Jeffrey Baldwin - on behalf of the Respondent WGLC

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Thomas v. Washington Gas Light Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 19, 1980 in Thomas v. Washington Gas Light Company

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear argument next in Thomas v. Washington Gas Light Company.

Mr. Green, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

James F. Green:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.

Halley I. Thomas, a resident of the District of Columbia since 1949, was hired in 1970 as a heavy laborer by the Washington Gas Light Company in their employment office in Washington, D. C. Although Mr. Thomas occasionally worked in the neighboring jurisdictions of Virginia and Maryland, approximately 60 percent of his duties were performed in the District of Columbia.

For his endeavors, Mr. Thomas received a paycheck drawn upon a District of Columbia bank.

On January 22, 1971, Mr. Thomas was breaking concrete with an air hammer in Arlington, Virginia, when he sustained a disabling injury to his back.

Since that date, Mr. Thomas has been unable to return to his occupation.

Prior to his being represented by counsel, Mr. Thomas, while still hospitalized, signed a Virginia agreement for temporary total disability benefits under the Virginia Workmen's Compensation Act.

Mr. Thomas received the Virginia benefits until the maximum amount payable under Virginia law.

Mr. Thomas is currently without any disability compensation and medical coverage.

Mr. Thomas pursued permanent and total disability benefits in the District of Columbia and received an award which has never been honored.

The Court is today presented with two independent statutory schemes, each of which has as its purpose the compensation of injured workers.

The statutes concerned are those of Virginia and the District of Columbia.

The compensation statutes in both of these jurisdictions create administrative remedies.

The respective administrative fora do not look north or south or east or west to determine whether a given person is entitled to compensation in that forum.

Warren E. Burger:

Let me back up a little bit, Mr. Green.

James F. Green:

Yes, Mr. Chief Justice.

Warren E. Burger:

In Virginia, he received compensation for total but not permanent disability, is that right?

James F. Green:

That is correct, Mr. Chief Justice.

Warren E. Burger:

Totally but not permanent.

James F. Green:

That is correct.

Warren E. Burger:

The claim now is that he is permanently disabled.

James F. Green:

That is correct.

That claim was presented to the District of Columbia.

Warren E. Burger:

Is his claim foreclosed in Virginia for permanent disability?

In other words, has he no residual rights when it developed that his temporary disability was apparently a permanent disability?

James F. Green:

Your Honor, the question of permanent and total disability was never resolved in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

That claim --

Warren E. Burger:

Why not?

James F. Green:

Because the benefits in the District of Columbia after Mr. Thomas obtained counsel were more generous to Mr. Thomas, and a claim was initiated in the District of Columbia for permanent and total disability benefits.