Claimant was injured at work in 2008 while performing deckhand duties. His injury was reported under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (“LHWCA”) and Claimant received LHWCA benefits. Oddly, Claimant testified that he did not know he was receiving LHWCA benefits. So, in 2010, Claimant filed a claim for Kentucky workers’ compensation benefits. A state administrative law judge determined that Claimant’s injury fell under the LHWCA and not the Kentucky Workers’ Compensation Act (“KWCA”). The ALJ’s decision was affirmed all the way up to the Supreme Court of Kentucky.
Kentucky’s workers’ compensation scheme covers all employees except those classes of employees exempted from coverage. Specifically, Kentucky Revised Statute 342.650(4) precludes coverage for “[a]ny person for whom a rule of liability for injury or death is provided by the laws of the United States . . . .” The ALJ had determined that the LHWCA was a “rule of liability,” and Claimant disagreed because of “the existence of so-called ‘twilight zones,’ which allow a worker to claim both LHWCA and state workers’ compensation benefits . . . .”
The Court dismissed Claimant’s argument, determining that Claimant had to look at the history of the KWCA–and not the LHWCA–to resolve the “rule of liability” issue. The Court concluded that the KWCA excludes any worker who is covered by a federal workers’ compensation scheme, unless the employer provides voluntary coverage. Here, Claimant was covered by the LHWCA, and thus he was not covered by the KWCA.
Morris v. Owensboro Grain Co., LLC, — S.W.3d —- (Ky. 2013).
(Note: I originally published this post on Navigable Waters: A Maritime, Longshore and Defense Base Act Blog.)