Baltimore & Phila. Steamboat Co. v. Norton
284 U.S. 408 (1932)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Baltimore & Phila. Steamboat Co. v. Norton, 284 U.S. 408 (1932)

Baltimore & Phila. Steamboat Co. v. Norton

No. 185

Argued December 11, 1931

Decided January 11, 1932

284 U.S. 408




1.Laws such as the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Act of March 4, 1927, which operate to relieve employees and their dependents of part of the burden resulting from injuries and deaths in employment, and to distribute it to the industries and mediately to those served by them, are in the public interest, and should be construed liberally in furtherance of their purpose and, if possible, so as to avoid incongruous results. P. 284 U. S. 414.

2. It is clear, when the related parts of § 8 of the Act are considered together, that Congress intended to distinguish between temporary total disability (b), permanent partial disability due to the total loss of the use of a member (c)(1), and permanent partial disability due to the partial loss of such use (c)(18)-(19), and that its purpose was to require payments on account of the loss of earning capacity resulting from each. P. 284 U. S. 415.

3. The language of (22), when taken in context and construed in harmony with the purpose of the Act, means that the full rate shall be allowed for the duration of the "healing time," and that the proportionate rate shall apply to the rest of the established compensation period. Id.

4. A longshoreman, while working on a vessel in navigable waters of the United States, suffered an injury to his arm resulting in his temporary total disability for 34 weeks, and permanent partial disability amounting to 40% of the use of the arm.


(1) That the full period for compensation is 314 weeks, made up by adding to the period of 312 weeks specified in paragraphs (c)(1)(18) the two weeks by which the temporary total disability exceeded the period of 32 weeks ("healing time") fixed in the schedule of paragraph (22).

(2) The full rate of 66 2/3% of the average weekly wages should be allowed for 32 weeks only, on account of the temporary permanent disability, and the proportionate rate (40% of the full rate) should be allowed for 282 weeks (the remainder of the full compensation period) on account of the permanent partial disability.

48 F.2d 57 modified and affirmed.

Page 284 U. S. 409

Certiorari, post, p. 602, to review a judgment affirming the dismissal of a suit to set aside an award of compensation under the Longshoremen's & Harbor Workes' Compensation Act. F or the opinion of the District Court, see 40 F.2d 530.

MR. JUSTICE BUTLER delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a suit in equity brought by petitioners in the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to set aside as not in accordance with law an order of the deputy commissioner awarding compensation to Gube under the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Act of March 4, 1927, 44 Stat. 1424, 1427, 33 U.S.C. § 901 et seq. The District Court dismissed the cause, 40 F.2d 530, and the Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, 48 F.2d 57.

February 17, 1928, Gube, while engaged in work for the steamboat company as a longshoreman upon a vessel in the navigable waters of the United States, suffered an injury to his left arm. He filed with the deputy commissioner a claim against the employer and insurer for compensation in accordance with the Act. The deputy commissioner found that claimant's average weekly wage amounted to $36.06; that, as a result of the injury, he suffered total disability for 34 weeks following and permanent partial impairment, amounting to 40 percent of the use of his arm, and awarded compensation at the weekly rate of $24.04 for 146 weeks, amounting in all to $3,509.84.

Page 284 U. S. 410

Petitioners maintain that the award should be the full rate for 40 percent of 314, being 125.6 weeks, and that the amount allowed below is excessive by 20.4 weeks, or $490.42. We are called on to determine, on the basis of the facts found, what amount the Act requires the employer to pay claimant. No other question is presented.

The pertinent provisions follow:

"Sec. 8. Compensation for disability shall be paid to the employee as follows:"

"(a) In case of total disability adjudged to be permanent 66 2/3 percentum of the average weekly wages shall be paid to the employee during the continuance of such total disability. . . ."

"(b) In case of disability total in character but temporary in quality 66 2/3 percentum of the average weekly wages shall be paid to the employee during the continuance thereof."

"(c) In case of disability partial in character but permanent in quality the compensation shall be 66 2/3 percentum of the average weekly wages, and shall be paid to the employee as follows:"

"(1) Arm lost, three hundred and twelve weeks' compensation. . . ."

"(18) Compensation for permanent total loss of use of a member shall be the same as for loss of the member."

"(19) Compensation for permanent partial loss or loss of use of a member may be for proportionate loss or loss of use of the member. . . ."

"(22) In case of temporary total disability and permanent partial disability, both resulting from the same injury, if the temporary total disability continues for a longer period than the number of weeks set forth in the following schedule, the period of temporary total disability in excess of such number of weeks shall be added to the compensation period provided in subdivision (c) of this section: Arm, thirty-two weeks. . . . "

Page 284 U. S. 411

"In any case resulting in loss or partial loss of use of arm . . . where the temporary total disability does not extend beyond the periods above mentioned for such injury, compensation shall be limited to the schedule contained in subdivision (c). . . ."

The award is based on a construction of the section in substance as follows: subdivision (b) allows compensation for temporary total disability during its continuance at the rate of two-thirds of the average weekly wage. Subdivision (c) allows for permanent partial loss of use of an arm compensation for 314 weeks at a rate that is the same proportion of two-thirds of the weekly wage as such partial disability is of the total use.(1), (18), (19), (22). Temporary total disability and permanent partial disability resulted from the same injury. The former continued 34 weeks, being two weeks in excess of the healing period allowed by c (22). The computation was: $36.06 x 2/3 = $24.04 x 34 = $817.36 for temporary total disability of claimant. 312/2

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