Cases From Around the U.S.

VAN SKIKE V. OWCP – In a challenge to the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs’ (OWCP) decision setting an attorney’s fee for a prevailing claimant, the OWCP’s decision is vacated in part, where the fee award was not based on substantial evidence, but affirmed in part, where the claimant failed to preserve the issue of whether the award was delayed.

Wheaton v. Golden Gate Bridge, Hwy. & Transp. Dist. – Petitioner’s petition for review of the Office of Workers’ Compensation’s denial of benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) is denied, where a municipal transportation district was a “subdivision” of the State of California under 33 U.S.C. section 903(b) and thus Petitioner was not entitled to benefits.

Ondimar Transportes Maritimos v. Beatty Street Properties, Inc. – The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that, under general maritime law, assignment of tort claims from the injured party to one tortfeasor permitting the settling defendant to proceed against a co-tortfeasor is invalid. In the instant case, plaintiff’s vessel allided with and damaged a dock. The dock owner asserted a claim against the vessel owner, who contended that the allision was due to the disruption of its vessel’s VHF communications with attending tugs by the improper use of radios on nearby defendant’s vessel. Plaintiff notified defendant of the dock owner’s claim, but did not include defendant in the settlement negotiations with the dock owner. As part of that settlement, plaintiff received an assignment of the dock owner’s potential claim against defendant. Plaintiff then brought suit against defendant for damages to plaintiff’s vessel and for the damage to the dock. Following defendant’s motion for partial summary judgment, the trial court dismissed the claim for damages to the dock. Plaintiff appealed. The appellate court affirmed, holding that contribution claims between a settling defendant and a co-tortfeasor are prohibited