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Decided: June 2, 2015

The Fourth Circuit granted the petition for review and remanded the case to the Benefits Review Board to enter an order dismissing Eason’s claim for temporary partial disability under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) after the Court found that Eason’s

The LHWCA defines “disability” as “incapacity because of injury to earn the wages which the employee was receiving at the time of injury in the same or any other employment.” Four different categories of disabilities are set forth in the LHWCA: (1) permanent total disability; (2) temporary total disability; (3) permanent partial disability; and (4) temporary partial disability. Placement in each of the four categories dictates the amount of compensation paid to the employee. Eason injured his right need while employed with the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Newport News, VA (NNS). His injury and required surgery kept Eason out of work for 9 months. Eason was paid compensation for permanent partial disability in addition to his regular weekly salary during those 9 months, extending until to a year after Eason’s return to work. Months later Eason began experiencing reoccurring pain in his knee and was placed on work restrictions. He was not compensated for this time and was not offered light-duty employment within his restrictions. Eason brought a claim against Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. for temporary total disability, or alternatively, temporary partial disability for the second flare up period.

The Fourth Circuit recognized that when dealing with a scheduled disabilities loss program such as the one at issue, “benefits are payable for a specific duration regardless of the actual impact of the disability on the claimant’s prospects of returning to. . . work.” Therefore, “once Eason’s permanent partial disability compensation is set under the schedule, he is not entitled to received additional disability compensation for the same scheduled injury unless the circumstances warrant a reclassification of that disability to permanent total or temporary total.” The Court found no evidence on record supporting a reclassification of Eason’s disability to a permanent total or temporary total disability. Accordingly, the case was remanded to the BRB to enter an order dismissing Eason’s claim for temporary partial disability under the LHWCA.

Full Opinion

Katie Ramseur