O'KEEFFE, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, SIXTH COMPENSATION DISTRICT, DEPARTMENT
OF LABOR v. AEROJET-GENERAL SHIPYARDS, INC.
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
Decided December 14, 1971
Section 22 of the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, permitting a Labor Department Deputy Commissioner "[u]pon his own initiative . . . because of a mistake in a determination of fact" to review a longshoreman's compensation claim within one year after its rejection and issue a new or modified compensation order, held to authorize the Deputy Commissioner to correct factual errors revealed by wholly new or cumulative evidence or further reflection on initially submitted evidence.
Certiorari granted; 442 F.2d 508, reversed and remanded.
Petitioner, a Labor Department Deputy Commissioner, rejected an employee's claim against respondent under the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, 44 Stat. 1424, as amended, 33 U.S.C. 901 et seq., on the ground that the proofs failed to establish that his disability was related to conditions of his employment. Thereafter petitioner reopened the case pursuant to 22 of the Act, 33 U.S.C. 922. On the basis of testimony by the employee's personal physician and a commission-appointed doctor, petitioner concluded, contrary to his initial determination, that the disabling condition had in fact been "materially aggravated and hastened" by the circumstances of employment, and awarded him compensation. The District Court sustained the award but the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, one judge dissenting, reversed. 442 F.2d 508. The Court of Appeals held that in the absence of changed conditions or [404 U.S. 254, 255] new evidence clearly demonstrating mistake in the initial determination, the "statute simply does not confer authority upon the Deputy Commissioner to receive additional but cumulative evidence and change his mind." 442 F.2d, at 513.
Neither the wording of the statute nor its legislative history supports this "narrowly technical and impractical construction." Luckenbach S. S. Co. v. Norton, 106 F.2d 137, 138 (CA3 1939). Section 22 of the Act provides:
Nor does our construction "render meaningless the provision [of 21 of the Act, 33 U.S.C. 921] that [a compensation] order becomes final unless proceedings for review are brought within thirty days." Case v. Calbeck, 304 F.2d 198, 201 (CA5 1962). The review authorized by 21 is limited to the legal validity of the award; a district court may set aside an award only if it is "not in accordance with law." Section 21 (b), 33 U.S.C. 921 (b). The 30-day limit of 21 is not "rendered meaningless" by setting a different time limit for a redetermination of fact. Moreover, the absence of a provision in 21 for the judicial review of evidence confirms the need for a broad discretion in the deputy commissioner, to review factual errors in an effort "to render justice under the act."
The petition for certiorari is granted, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion.