A railway worker's fall from a bridge spanning a river did not classify his damage covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act.
Kenneth Muhammad worked as a carpenter in the bridge and building maintenance department for Norfolk, Virginia-based Norfolk Southern Railway Co. In May 2016, he switched the railway on a bridge when the part of the walkway he worked on collapsed. He avoided falling into the river but suffered serious injuries.
He then filed a lawsuit against Norfolk Southern under the Federal Employers Liability Act, claiming that the railway company's negligence caused his injuries. Norfolk Southern moved to reject his claims, claiming that the LHWCA gave the exclusive action to his claim. The US District Court of the Eastern Division of Virginia in Norfolk dismissed its complaint and claimed that the accident reached both the LHWCA's "situs" requirement that Mr Muhammad's injury was "on the navigational waters" and the "status" requirement that he was engaged in "maritime employment".
The bridge, which crosses the Elizabeth River, was declared to navigate by the US Coast Guard and the bridge center spans to allow ships to navigate under it and the court noted that since the repair and rebuilding of the bridge was an "essential and integrated element" of the shipping traffic who floats under the bridge as his work constituted employment.
Mr. Muhammad appealed the decision and the 4th US Board of Appeal reversed and annulled the court's decision.
The court noted that if his injury was covered by the LHWCA, that act, such as labor compensation law, would have been the exclusive measure of his work-related injury. However, the court argued that Mr Muhammad's damage to a railway bridge over navigable water would not meet the requirement of the law. The Court noted that other courts have made the difference clear that work on a bridge, "as a bridge", would not be subject to a statute requiring the worker to work "on navigational waters." The court found that Muhammad was injured on a bridge accessible only by land and not in connection with water, and although the bridge's center span rose to allow ships to travel under it, the court found that it was a "far from a beach that served as a "integral or substantial part of the loading or unloading of a ship. ""
Since his injury was not covered by the LHWCA, the court considered that the district court failed to reject its FELA claim and reverse and revoke the case.
None of the lawyers in the case responded immediately to the request for comment.