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Supreme Court Takes Up Driller’s Benefits Appeal

(CN) - The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to review a 9th Circuit decision that reinstated a widow's claims for workers' compensation benefits under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, even though her husband was killed on an onshore oil-processing facility.

The San Francisco-based federal appeals panel noted in its May decision that it was the third circuit to consider the question, and that its sister courts had reached conflicting decisions.

Before he was crushed to death by a forklift, Luisa Valladolid's late husband, Juan, worked for Pacific Operations Offshore as a roustabout. The court noted that Juan spent 98 percent of his working time doing maintenance work aboard one of Pacific's offshore oil-drilling platforms, the Hogan, located more than 3 miles off the California coast.

Once every two years, Juan had to collect scrap metal with a forklift at the onshore oil flocculation facility. After Juan was killed, his widow received death benefits under California's workers' compensation scheme, and she filed a claim for benefits under the outer continental shelf lands act and another law for longshore and harbor workers.

An administrative law judge denied Valladolid's claims, and an appeals board upheld the decision. The three-judge appellate upheld the decision as to the longshore and harbor workers act, but it found that a worker need not be injured or killed on the outer continental shelf to qualify for benefits under that act. It is enough to suffer injuries resulting from outer continental shelf operations.

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