Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Pacific Operators Offshore, LLP v. Valladolid

ELR Citation: 42 ELR 20009
Nos. 10-507, (U.S., 01/11/2012)

The U.S. Supreme Court held that the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) extends workers compensation coverage to an employee who can establish a substantial nexus between his injury and his employer's extractive operations on the outer continental shelf (OCS). The case arose after the employee of an onshore oil and gas processing facility who spent 98 percent of his time working on an offshore platform was killed in an accident while working at the onshore facility. His widow sought benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), pursuant to the OCSLA, which extends coverage to injuries occurring as the result of operations conducted on the OCS for the purpose of extracting natural resources from the shelf. An administrative law judge (ALJ) dismissed her claim, reasoning that the LHWCA did not cover the employee's fatal injury because his accident occurred on land, not on the OCS. The Labor Department's Benefits Review Board affirmed, but the Ninth Circuit reversed. Rejecting tests used by the Third and Fifth Circuits, the Ninth Circuit concluded that a claimant seeking benefits under the OCSLA "must establish a substantial nexus between the injury and extractive operations on the shelf." The Supreme Court agreed. Although the test may not be the easiest to administer, ALJs and courts should be able to determine if an injured employee has established the required significant causal link. Whether an employee injured while performing an off-OCS task qualifies will depend on the circumstances of each case. It was thus proper for the Ninth Circuit to remand this case for the Benefits Review Board to apply the substantial-nexus test. Thomas, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C.J., and Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Scalia, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which Alito, J., joined.