Wednesday, November 06, 2013
9th Circuit win may open the door to compensation for Iraq contractor suicide attempts
“The [9th Circuit] panel held that a suicide, or injuries from a suicide attempt, are compensable under the Longshore Act when there is a direct and unbroken chain of causation between a compensable work-related injury and the suicide attempt.”—from the court order
by Larry Geller
This is the kind of news that “disappears” because maritime law is a rather esoteric practice that seldom breaks into the mainstream media.There is a lot more about this workers’ comp story that is interesting and timely in terms of the thousands of workers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with serious injuries and who try to kill themselves, according to attorney Jay Friedheim, who represented a ship worker in this case.
In a nutshell (if you want to study this case, the court order is here),
In 2001, William ‘Willie Boy’ Kealoha, a ship laborer on cleaning detail, fell 25 to 50 feet from the top of a barge to the steel deck of a dry dock. He barely survived the fall and suffered severe trauma to the head, chest, and abdomen. Apparently, not thrilled to be so painfully alive after the horrific fall, two years later, Kealoha shot himself and once again barely survived. He sought benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (33 U.S.C. §§901-950) (LHWCA or Longshore Act).
[New York Law Journal, Vol. 250—No. 86, 10/31/2013, New Test in Longshore Worker’s Attempted Suicide ‘Unchained’]
Kealoha was grievously injured and disfigured. As the law journal also mentions, he was also denied the swift justice that the law, in cases like these, is supposed to provide.
The potential connection to returning Iraq workers that Friedheim raised could be extremely interesting. If you follow Democracy Now or other liberal press outlets, you’ve heard of the high suicide rate among returned soldiers. Apparently, there is also a high rate of self-harm among contracted workers. This case could lead to breakthroughs in compensation for these workers, potentially enabling them to gain access to treatment that could put them on a path to healing.
I know little of the law, but doubt this would apply to soldiers. If it would, I hope someone will correct me.
This win deserves to be covered by the commercial media (hint).
It would not apply to soldiers. The federal government has not waived sovereign immunity for such claims.
Thank you for clarifying. I didn't think it would apply to soldiers, but had no basis for that thought.