The BRB Addresses the 1984 Amendments to the LHWCA

The injured worker sustained a work-related neck injury on September 10, 1981.  After receiving TTD benefits for over a year, the worker entered into stipulations, which were incorporated in a compensation order issued by the deputy commissioner in 1985.  The parties agreed to PPD benefits commencing in 1983, and Employer was eventually granted Section 8(f) relief.  In 2008, the injured worker died of lymphoma at the age of 88, and was survived by his wife. 

Decedent’s son (without legal counsel) brought this claim seeking continued benefits for his widowed mother.  Claimant relied on a 1983 letter from Employer stating that upon the Employee’s death, his widow would receive benefits at a rate of 75% of PPD.  While this was an accurate statement of Section 8(d)(3) in 1983, the Employer argued that Section 8(d)(3) had been repealed in the 1984 amendments to the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.  Further, the Employer argued that the cause of death was unrelated to the injury, and that neither the stipulations nor the compensation order mentioned death benefits.  Claimant argued that the stipulations amounted to a settlement that was only agreed to after the 1983 letter’s promise of death benefits.  Employer’s motion for summary decision was granted by the administrative law judge. 

Claimant appealed to the Benefits Review Board, again without counsel.  The BRB affirmed the motion for summary decision, finding that the 1984 amendments precluded death benefits for a death unrelated to the injury.  Post-1984 law provides that “when an employee who is permanently partially disabled due to an unscheduled work injury…dies from causes unrelated to the injury, the survivors have no right to recover additional benefits after the date of death.”  The 1983 letter referenced by Claimant was merely a description of then-existing law and it did not entitle Claimant to any additional rights. 

Wilson v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., — Ben. Rev. Bd. Serv. (MB) —, 2010 WL 3019969 (2010).

Note: This entry was prepared by Will Bland, IV, a present law clerk and future associate of Mouledoux, Bland, Legrand & Brackett.