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MARSHALL v. PLETZ

decided: January 4, 1943.

MARSHALL, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, U.S. EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION COMMISSION, ET AL
v.
PLETZ



CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT.

Stone, Roberts, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Byrnes, Jackson

Author: Roberts

[ 317 U.S. Page 384]

 MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The importance of questions presented in this case in the administration of the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act,*fn1 as well as a conflict of decisions,*fn2 impelled us to grant certiorari.

The respondent, a longshoreman and maritime worker employed by the petitioner McCormick Steamship Company in loading a steamship, was injured November 12, 1935. He filed a claim before the petitioner Marshall, a deputy commissioner, April 20, 1937. The petitioner Fireman's Fund Insurance Company, which insured the employer against liability arising under the Act, appeared at the first hearing set by the deputy commissioner and objected that the claim was untimely filed.*fn3 The respondent asserted that the insurer had, by conduct and negotiations with him, waived the right to object to the claim on the ground stated. After hearing witnesses the deputy commissioner made findings of fact on which he based

[ 317 U.S. Page 385]

     ultimate findings that the claim was not filed within one year after the injury and that the respondent had not been misled or overreached by the employer or the insurance carrier, and dismissed the claim.

The respondent filed his bill in the District Court, praying that the order be set aside as "not in accordance with law."*fn4 A motion to dismiss was filed and, after hearing, the court remanded the case to the deputy commissioner with instructions to make findings of fact upon all the issues involved and with leave to consider all the evidence already taken and any other further evidence which might be offered as a basis for such findings. Further evidence was taken, the deputy commissioner made detailed findings of fact, and again concluded that neither the employer nor the insurance carrier had misled the respondent and that neither the carrier nor the employer had waived, or estopped themselves to rely upon, the limitation set by the statute. Thereupon the respondent supplemented his bill and the petitioners moved to dismiss. The court heard the case upon the record certified by the deputy commissioner, but upon that record made its own independent findings of fact. Its conclusions, based on its findings, were that the insurance carrier was estopped to assert that the claim was not timely filed and had waived any defense on that ground. The court set aside the orders of the deputy commissioner and directed him to enter a further order rejecting the objections to the claim and holding it to be in all respects valid, and to proceed to ascertain the amount of compensation due the respondent.

The insurance carrier, the employer, and the deputy commissioner appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals. That court affirmed the decision of the District Court, one judge dissenting.*fn5

[ 317 U.S. Page 386]

     On the day of his injury respondent was sent to a hospital by the employer. He remained there until about Christmas 1935. A representative of the insurer called on him there, received a statement of his injury, and, within the time required by the statute, tendered him a check for the first installment of compensation due him, calculated according to his weekly earnings as nearly as the same could be ascertained from employment records. Respondent refused the check on the ground that it was not for as much as his earnings justified. It was explained to him that any deficiency could be adjusted as soon as the insurer or he could ascertain the facts more accurately. After leaving the hospital, respondent called on the attorney of the insurer, was again tendered payment of compensation, and again refused it on the ground that it was inadequate. At that time the insurer had some supplementary information and, as a result, advised respondent that it was ready to pay him compensation at a rate slightly in excess of that originally offered.

After refusing compensation, the respondent consulted an attorney who advised him that he had a cause of action against his employer for damages, notwithstanding the provisions of the Compensation Act. He subsequently told the insurer's attorney that he had been so advised.

The respondent's disability necessitated a return to the hospital in February 1936. While there, his present counsel saw him, advised him that he had no valid claims against any third party or his employer, and that he ought to take compensation. On leaving the hospital, respondent continued to receive medical aid which was furnished by the insurer, as was all medical care theretofore.

Respondent repeatedly called upon the insurer's attorney, who consistently advised him that he ought to accept compensation. There is dispute as to who broached the subject of a lump sum settlement in these ...


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