METROPOLITAN STEVEDORE CO. v. RAMBO

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
96-272
Petitioner 
Metropolitan Stevedore Co.
Respondent 
Rambo
Advocates
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Facts of the Case 

John Rambo received a disability award under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) for an injury he sustained while working for the Metropolitan Stevedore Company as a longshore frontman. Afterwards, Rambo acquired new skills and obtained longshore work as a crane operator, earning more than three times his preinjury earnings, though his disabled physical condition remained unchanged. Metropolitan then filed to modify Rambo's disability award under the LHWCA. An Administrative Law judge terminated Rambo's benefits because of his increased earnings. The Benefits Review Board affirmed. In reversing, the Court of Appeals held that the LHWCA only authorizes disability award modifications if there has been a change in an employee's physical condition. Later the appellate court reversed another order discontinuing compensation.

Question 

Does the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act bar nominal compensation to a worker who is presently able to earn at least as much as before he was injured?

Conclusion 
Decision: 6 votes for Rambo, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Longshoremen and Harbor Workers' Compensation

No. In a 6-3 opinion delivered by Justice David H. Souter, the Court held that nominal compensation is proper when there is a significant possibility that the worker's wage-earning capacity will fall below the level of his pre-injury wages sometime in the future. The Court reasoned that a worker is entitled to nominal compensation under the LHWCA when a work-related injury has not diminished the worker's present wage-earning capacity under current circumstances, but when there is a significant possibility that the injury will cause diminished capacity under future conditions. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote a dissenting opinion in which she was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

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METROPOLITAN STEVEDORE CO. v. RAMBO. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 19 June 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1996/1996_96_272>.
METROPOLITAN STEVEDORE CO. v. RAMBO, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1996/1996_96_272 (last visited June 19, 2014).
"METROPOLITAN STEVEDORE CO. v. RAMBO," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed June 19, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1996/1996_96_272.