Offshore InjuryBlog

When Does a Maritime Case Fall Under OCSLA?

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) was passed in August of 1954 as a way to govern activity that occurs on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The OCS is the submerged land, subsoil, and seabed outside of state coastal waters, which lies within the jurisdiction of the federal government.

When Can Non-Seamen Pursue Injury Compensation Under LHWCA?

Under §1333(c) of OCSLA, a non-seaman employee who is injured as a result of operations on the OCS can seek compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA).

Operations that qualify for compensation payable under LHWCA include:

  • Exploration
  • Development
  • Removal
  • Transportation of natural resources

U.S. Supreme Court Ruling: Pacific Operators Offshore LLP v. Valladolid

Pacific Operators Offshore LLP v. Valladolid is a case that involved Juan Valladolid, a man employed as a roustabout on an offshore drilling platform more than three miles off of the California coast. Mr. Valladolid was killed at his employer's onshore oil-processing facility, which led to his widow seeking workers' comp benefits under OCSLA and LHWCA.

A judge denied Ms. Valladolid’s claim, however, stating that Mr. Valladolid had been killed onshore and therefore outside the Outer Continental Shelf, meaning he did not qualify for compensation under OCSLA. The LHWCA claim was also denied because he was not engaged in maritime employment and was not injured on a maritime situs.

The case was sent to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which reversed the decision in part. Per the Ninth Circuit, OCSLA does not have a situs-of-injury requirement. This court stated that OCSLA §1333(b) extends coverage to employees who are injured outside of the geographical location of the OCS so long as a substantial connection exists between the injury and OCS-related operations.

In regard to the decision, Justice Thomas wrote the following:

"We are confident that ALJs and courts will be able to determine whether an injured employee has established a significant causal link between the injury he suffered and his employer's on-OCS extractive operations. Although we expect that employees injured while performing tasks on the OCS will regularly satisfy the test, whether an employee injured while performing an off-OCS task qualifies…is a question that will depend on the individual circumstances of each case."

Does Your Case Fall Under OCSLA?

For your claim to be considered under OCSLA, you need to prove you qualify under the following two requirements:

  1. You must prove a significant nexus between your injury and operations on the OCS
  2. You must not be a crewmember or master of a vessel, or an officer or employee of the United States

Following an offshore injury, it can be confusing to determine whether state or federal law will apply to your case. For this reason, it is imperative that you seek the advice of an experienced offshore injury attorney. You will need to know the boundaries of the OCS, as well as whether your injury was tied to OCS activities.

In many cases, maritime and Outer Continental Shelf cases can be extremely specific and often quite complicated. For this reason, it is important to choose the right attorney who has experience in these types of cases. Arnold & Itkin offers a high level of experience in cases involving OCSLA and LHWCA cases. We are experienced offshore injury lawyers who are well versed in maritime law, including OCSLA.

Contact us today to learn more or to request an initial case consultation free of charge!

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