On July 21, 2017, the Ninth Circuit published its decision in Chugach Management Services v. Jetnil. In short, the court determined that the zone of special danger does, in fact, apply to local nationals.
Here’s the Ninth Circuit’s summary:
The panel denied a petition for review of a decision of the United States Department of Labor’s Benefits Review Board (“BRB”) awarding disability benefits, pursuant to the Defense Base Act, to Edwin Jetnil, who was employed by petitioner U.S. government contractor Chugach Management Services when he was injured.
The Defense Base Act is a workers’ compensation scheme for civilian employees working outside of the continental United States on military bases or for companies under contract with the U.S. government.
Jetnil was a citizen of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and was injured while on a work assignment for Chugach on the remote Kwaljalein Atoll, which houses the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Site.
Under the judicially created “zone of special danger doctrine,” employees may be compensated for “injuries resulting from reasonable and foreseeable recreational activities in isolated or dangerous locales.” Kalama Servs., Inc. v. Dir., Office of Workers’ Comp. Programs, 354 F.3d 1085, 1091 (9th Cir. 2004).
The panel held that the judicially created zone of special danger doctrine could be applied to local nationals employed in their home country under an employment contract covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, as extended by the Defense Base Act. The panel further held that the administrative law judge and the BRB did not commit legal error by applying the zone of special danger doctrine to Jetnil, who was employed by a Defense Base Act-covered contract in his home country. The panel concluded that substantial evidence supported the ALJ and BRB decision and the award of temporary total disability benefits to Jetnil.
Here is a hyperlink to the Ninth Circuit’s decision: http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2017/07/21/15-72873.pdf.