Situs Unraveled: Evaluating Methods for Determining Whether an Injury Site Qualifies as an LHWCA § 903(a) “Other Adjoining Area”

Yaakov Adler | Comment

In order for injured workers to be eligible for compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA or Act), two general requirements–“situs” and “status”–must be satisfied. Fulfilling the elements of these requirements, however, is not always an easy task. In the four decades following the United States Congress’s passage of the 1972 Amendments to the LHWCA, confusion among the circuit courts of appeals over the proper interpretation of the “other adjoining area” language contained in § 903(a)’s situs requirement has produced at least four distinct approaches to resolving the situs inquiry.

In relevant part, § 903(a) makes compensation payable to LHWCA-covered employees for “disability or death result[ing] from an injury occurring upon the navigable waters of the United States (including any adjoining pier, wharf, dry dock, terminal, building way, marine railway, or other adjoining area customarily used by an employer in loading, unloading, repairing, dismantling, or building a vessel).” This Comment analyzes these four approaches and argues that the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit’s strict contiguity test provides the best interpretation of the LHWCA’s “other adjoining area” language by ensuring predictability of coverage for employers and workers, promoting judicial efficiency, and adhering to the LHWCA’s plain language.