Schwirse v. Director, OWCP

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Employment Law
  • Date Filed: 07-26-2013
  • Case #: 11-73172
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge N.R. Smith for the Court; Circuit Judges Silverman and Clifton
  • Full Text Opinion

Under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, an injury that is ”occasioned solely by” intoxication means that the legal cause of the injury was the intoxication, regardless of where the intoxicated person fell.

Gary Schwirse, who was employed as a longshoreman by Marine Terminals Corporation (“MTC”), consumed approximately 11 beers and a half pint of whiskey by the end of the work day. After consuming his day libations, Schwirse was attempting to relieve himself and fell about 6 feet off of the MTC dock onto a concrete and steel ledge. Schwirse was taken to a hospital where he was treated for acute alcohol intoxication, cannabis ingestion, and a severe head laceration. Following the injury, Schwirse applied for compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (“LHWCA”), and he was initially awarded benefits. However, on appeal, the Benefits Review Board (“BRB”) reversed and remanded, stating that the employer did not hold the burden of proving on the record that intoxication was the only cause of a claimant’s injury. On remand, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) determined that the only explanation for Schwirse’s injury was intoxication. The BRB affirmed the decision, and Schwirse petitioned the Ninth Circuit for review. The Ninth Circuit held that the BRB did not err in interpreting the LHWCA and that an injury “occasioned solely by” intoxication means that the legal cause of the injury was intoxication, regardless of any material the intoxicated person falls on. Further, the panel upheld the BRB’s review of the ALJ’s decision to deny benefits to Schwirse. PETITION DENIED.

Advanced Search