Northeast Marine Terminal Co., Inc. v. Caputo
432 U.S. 249 (1977)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Northeast Marine Terminal Co., Inc. v. Caputo, 432 U.S. 249 (1977)

Northeast Marine Terminal Co., Inc. v. Caputo

No. 7644

Argued April 18, 1977

Decided June 17, 1977*

432 U.S. 249

Syllabus

In 1972 Congress amended the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (Act) to extend coverage to additional workers in an attempt to avoid anomalies inherent in a system that drew lines at the water's edge by allowing compensation under the Act only to workers injured on the seaward side of a pier. The relevant sections, as so amended, broadened the definition of "navigable waters of the United States" as the required situs of a compensable injury to include

"any adjoining pier, wharf, dry dock, terminal, building way, marine railway, or other adjoining area customarily used by an employer in loading, unloading, repairing, or building a vessel,"

33 U.S.C. § 903(a) (1970 ed., Supp. V), and also modified the definition of a covered "employee" to mean

"any person engaged in maritime employment, including any longshoreman or other person engaged in longshoring operations, and any harborworker including a ship repairman, shipbuilder, and shipbreaker,"

33 U.S.C. § 902(3) (1970 ed., Supp. V). Respondent Blundo, whose job as a "checker" at a pier for petitioner International Terminal Operating Co. was to check and mark cargo being unloaded from a vessel or from a container (a large metal box resembling a truck trailer without wheels) which had been taken off a vessel, was injured when, while marking cargo "stripped" (unloaded) from a container, he slipped on some ice on the pier. Respondent Caputo, who, though a member of a regular stevedoring "gang" for another company, had been temporarily hired by petitioner Northeast Marine Terminal Co. as a terminal laborer at a pier to load and unload containers, barges, and trucks, was injured while rolling a dolly loaded with ship's cargo into a consignee's truck. Compensation awards to both respondents under the Act, as amended, were upheld by the Court of Appeals.

Held:

1. Both respondents satisfied the "status" test of eligibility for compensation, since they were both "engaged in maritime employment" and

Page 432 U. S. 250

were therefore "employees" within the meaning of § 902(3) at the time of their injuries. Pp. 432 U. S. 265-279.

(a) Congress' intent to adapt the Act to modern cargo-handling techniques, such as containerization, which have moved much of the longshoreman's work off the vessel and onto land, clearly indicates that such tasks as stripping a container are included in the category of "longshoring operations" under § 902(3), and hence it is apparent that respondent Blundo, whose task was an integral part of the unloading process as altered by the advent of containers, was a statutory "employee" when he slipped on the ice. Pp. 432 U. S. 269-271.

(b) Both the text of the 1972 amendments to the Act, which focuses primarily on occupations (longshoreman, harbor worker, etc.), and their legislative history, which shows that Congress wanted a system that did not depend on the fortuitous circumstance of whether the injury occurred on land or over water, demonstrate that Congress intended to provide continuous coverage to amphibious workers such as longshoremen, who, without the amendments, would be covered for only part of their activity, and that therefore the amendments were meant to cover such a person as respondent Caputo, who as a member of a regular stevedoring gang worked either on the pier or on the ship, and who, on the day of his injury in his job as a terminal laborer, could have been assigned to a number of tasks, including stripping containers, unloading barges, and loading trucks. Pp. 432 U. S. 271-274.

(c) Respondents' coverage as "employees" under the Act cannot be defeated by the so-called "point of rest" theory, whereby longshoremen's "maritime employment" would be considered, in the case of unloading, to be taking cargo out of a vessel's hold, moving it away from the ship's side, and carrying it to its point of rest on a pier or in a terminal shed, since that theory appears nowhere in the Act, was never mentioned by Congress during the legislative process, does not comport with Congress' intent, and restricts coverage of a remedial Act designed to extend coverage. Pp. 432 U. S. 274-279.

2. The injuries of both respondents occurred on a "situs" covered by the Act. Pp. 432 U. S. 279-281.

(a) The truck that respondent Caputo was helping to load was parked inside the terminal area adjoining "navigable waters of the United States." P. 432 U. S. 279.

(b) Although respondent Blundo's injuries occurred on a pier used only for stripping and stuffing containers and for storage, rather than for loading and unloading ships, nevertheless he too satisfied the "situs" test, since the pier was located in a terminal adjoining the water, so that,

Page 432 U. S. 251

even if it is assumed that the phrase "customarily used" in § 903(a) modifies all the preceding terms, rather than only the immediately preceding term "other adjoining area," he satisfied the test by working in an "adjoining . . . terminal . . . customarily used . . . for loading [and] unloading." Pp. 432 U. S. 279-281.

544 F.2d 35, affirmed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

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