By Ralph R. Lorberbaum, Zipperer, Lorberbaum & Beauvais, Savannah, Georgia
Loyola University put on its annual Longshore Conference on March 24 and 25, 2011, in New Orleans before almost three hundred and fifty (350) attendees, which is the largest audience anyone could ever remember to be in attendance. The conference started with a panel discussion of recent significant decisions affecting the Longshore Act and its extensions (Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, 33 U.S.C.S. § 901 et seq.). Cases regarding concurrent awards (Bogden v. Consolidation Coal Co., 44 BRBS 43 (Jun. 14, 2010), and Aitmbarek v. L3 Communications, 44 BRBS 115 (Dec. 23, 2010)) were discussed, as well as the cases surrounding attorney fees and how to determine the market rate (Bogden v. Consol. Coal, Id.; Christensen v. Stevedoring Svcs. of Am., 44 BRBS 39 (May 13, 2010); Christensen v. Stevedoring Svcs. of Am., 44 BRBS 75 (Sept. 23, 2010); Holiday v. Newport News, 44 BRBS 67 (Aug. 11, 2010); Thompson v. Northrup Grumman, 44 BRBS 71 (Sept. 8, 2010)). There were also discussions regarding the appropriateness of summary judgment (Green v. Ceres Marine Terminals, 43 BRBS 173 (Jan. 12, 2010); Honaker v. Mar Com, Inc., 44 BRBS 5 (Mar. 11, 2010); Irby v. Blackwater, 44 BRBS 17 (Apr. 14, 2010)) as well as situs/status (Wakely v. Knutson Towboat Co., 44 BRBS 47 (Jul. 22, 2010)). There was also a major discussion about the case of Valladolid v. Pac. Operations Offshore, LLP, 604 F.3d 1126, 44 BRBS 35(CRT) (9th Cir. 2010), cert. granted sub nom. Pac. Operations Offshore, LLP v. Valladolid, ___ U.S. ___, 179 L. Ed. 2d 298, ___ S. Ct. ___ (2011), in which the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider the different holdings as to whether the injury must occur on a platform under the OCSLA in order to invoke the situs requirement (Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 U.S.C.S. § 1331 et seq.).
The audience was then treated to a first. There was a panel discussion regarding trial practice and appellate practice in 905(b) claims by settling judges from the Federal bar (33 U.S.C.S. § 905(b)). The Honorable James L. Dennis, judge with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, was joined by the Honorable Lance M. Affrick, the Honorable Carl J. Barbier and the Honorable Eldon E. Fallon, who were all judges with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. It was the first time Loyola has been able to get four (4) federal judges on a panel at the same time. Their insight, opinions, and stories were especially enjoyable and enlightening to all attendees, whether they were attorneys or not.
Next, the audience was treated to an in-depth panel discussion about impairment under the Act. The panel consisted of attorneys and physicians. It was important for all to hear that the ALJ, as the trier of the facts, is not bound by the AMA Guides, and can base his opinion on subjective factors. Then there was a follow-up discussion from attorneys on psychological injuries, as well as toxic exposure claims.
Next came a lively discussion of how an employer or carrier can and does obtain reimbursement under the War Hazards Act (War Hazards Compensation Act, 42 U.S.C.S. § 1702). This is an Act which provides assistance in the payment of claims under the Defense Base Act where the injury or death was due to hostile activities (Defense Base Act, 42 U.S.C.S. § 1651).
Two (2) District Directors then presented a talk about medical issues before their office (Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, U.S. Department of Labor). They discussed working out medical issue problems through medical evaluations. They also discussed other medical expense issues that come before their office. Then a panel discussion regarding hearing loss was held. It was pointed out how a permanent partial disability (PPD) could be determined even if the doctor did not use the AMA Guides.
Then there was an update from the Office of Administrative Law Judges, as well as a discussion of how "elder law" is applicable in cases before the U.S. Department of Labor. There was a lively panel discussion regarding the proof of suitable alternate employment, what the attorneys try to prove, and what the vocational counselor also tries to establish. There was also a panel discussion regarding attorney fees, including when fees are due and owing and how to prove them.
There was yet another panel discussion on the legal ethics of the handling of claims by attorneys. Last, but not least, there was "Longshore Jeopardy," which kept the panelists and audience on its toes. This part of the conference has now become one of the most entertaining, as well as educational, parts of the conference. The initial reviews indicate that this was one of the best conferences Loyola ever had.
Next year, the conference moves back to the Sheraton and will be held on March 15th and 16th, 2012.
© Copyright 2011 by Ralph R. Lorberbaum. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
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