RODRIGUEZ v. COMPASS SHIPPING CO., LTD., ET AL.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT.
Argued January 12, 1981.
Decided May 18, 1981. *
Section 33 (b) of the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act provides that a longshoreman's acceptance, pursuant to an award in a compensation order, of compensation from his employer for injuries incurred in the course of employment "shall operate as an assignment to the employer of all right of the person entitled to compensation to recover damages against [a person other than the employer] unless [the longshoreman] shall commence an action against such third person within six months after such award." Petitioner longshoremen, who had been injured aboard ship in the course of their employment, accepted compensation under such an award from their respective stevedore employers. More than six months after the awards, each petitioner commenced an action in Federal District Court against the shipowner involved, alleging that the shipowner had negligently caused his injury. The District Courts granted summary judgments for the shipowners (respondents) on the ground that, because petitioners failed to bring suit within six months of the compensation awards, their causes of action had been assigned to their employers who thereafter had the exclusive right to pursue the third-party claims. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
Section 33 (b) precludes petitioners from pursuing their third-party claims against respondent shipowners. Pp. 602-618.
STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
[ Footnote * ] Together with Perez v. Arya National Shipping Line, Ltd., and Barulec v. Ove Skou, R. A., also on certiorari to the same court (see this Court's Rule 19.4).
Martin Lassoff argued the cause for petitioners. On the brief was Morris Cizner.
Joseph T. Stearns argued the cause and filed a brief for respondents Compass Shipping Co., Ltd., et al. Francis X. Byrn argued the cause and filed a brief for respondent Ove Skou, R. A.Fn
Fn [451 U.S. 596, 597] Harry M. Philo, Arthur Roth, C. Arthur Rutter, Jr., and John H. Klein filed a brief for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America as amicus curiae urging reversal. [451 U.S. 596, 598]
JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.
The question presented in these three cases 1 is whether a longshoreman may prosecute a personal injury action against a negligent shipowner after his right to recover damages has been assigned to his employer by operation of 33 (b) of the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (Act), 33 U.S.C. 901 et seq. 2
Each petitioner is a longshoreman who was injured aboard ship in the regular course of his employment. Each asserted a claim for compensation against the stevedore by whom he was employed. Each accepted compensation from his employer pursuant to an award in a compensation order. 3 More [451 U.S. 596, 599] than six months later, 4 each commenced an action against the shipowner alleging that the defendant had negligently caused his injury. 5 The District Courts granted motions for summary [451 U.S. 596, 600] judgment filed by the respondent shipowners on the ground that, by reason of the longshoremen's failure to bring suit within six months, their causes of action had been assigned to the stevedores who thereafter had the exclusive right to pursue the third-party claims. 6 The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed, 617 F.2d 955 (1980); 622 F.2d 572 and 575 (1980), 7 and we granted certiorari to resolve the conflict with the contrary holding of the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Caldwell v. Ogden Sea Transport, Inc., 618 F.2d 1037 (1980). 449 U.S. 818 . 8
There is no dispute about the parties' respective interests in either (a) a claim asserted by a longshoreman against a shipowner within the 6-month period following acceptance of a compensation award, or (b) a claim asserted by the stevedore against the shipowner after the 6-month period has elapsed. In the former situation, the longshoreman has exclusive control of the action; any recovery in excess of the amount required to pay the cost of litigation and to reimburse the employer for the statutory compensation paid pursuant [451 U.S. 596, 601] to the award belongs entirely to the longshoreman. 9 In the latter situation, the stevedore has exclusive control of the litigation; any net recovery - after the compensation award and the litigation costs have been recouped - must be shared 80% by the longshoreman and 20% by the employer. 10 The question presented by these cases is what right, if any, the longshoreman has against the third-party shipowner if he does not sue within the 6-month period and the employer [451 U.S. 596, 602] fails to do so thereafter. Both the plain language of the statute and the history of its amendments dictate the same answer.
Even though the language of 33 (b) is simple and direct, it is appropriate to begin by quoting our description last Term of the context in which it appears:
The language of 33 (b) is both mandatory and unequivocal. It provides that the acceptance of compensation under an award "shall operate as an assignment to the employer of all right of the person entitled to compensation to recover damages against such third person unless such person shall commence an action against such third person within six months after such award." 33 U.S.C. 933 (b) (emphasis supplied). 11 [451 U.S. 596, 603]
The only conditions precedent to the statutory assignment are the acceptance of compensation pursuant to an award in a compensation order and the passage of the required period of six months. These conditions are admittedly satisfied in these cases. 12 The statutory assignment encompasses "all right" of the employee to recover damages from a third party. These words preclude the possibility that the assignment is only a partial one that does not entirely divest the employee of his right to sue, or that the employee and the employer possess concurrent rights to sue in the postassignment period. When the 33 (b) assignment occurs, it transfers the employee's entire right to commence a third-party action to the employer.
Application of this plain statutory language to the undisputed facts in these cases leads to the conclusion that petitioners may not pursue their claims for damages against the respondent shipowners. Petitioners filed these actions well beyond the 6-month period following acceptance of compensation, and offered no excuse for their delay. Although their employers failed to pursue the assigned claims, the statute does not expressly require that employers pursue third-party claims, nor does it provide for relief to employees should the assigned claims lie dormant. Therefore, petitioners appear to be without a cause of action under the statute.
In an attempt to avoid the conclusion mandated by its plain language, petitioners contend that the Act should be construed either to include an unexpressed condition precedent to any effective assignment - namely, the absence of any possible conflict of interest between the employer-stevedore and the employee - or to grant the employee an implicit right to have the third-party claim reassigned if the employer fails to sue. Normally, these contentions would be foreclosed by the lack of any ambiguity in the statutory language. But the statutory language was also unambiguous in [451 U.S. 596, 604] 1956 when this Court held in Czaplicki v. The Hoegh Silvercloud, 351 U.S. 525 , that 33 (b) contained a limited exception. It therefore is appropriate to evaluate petitioners' contentions in the light of the relevant legislative history. In making this evaluation, however, we adhere to the rule that, "[a]bsent a clearly expressed legislative intention to the contrary, [the statutory] language must ordinarily be regarded as conclusive." Consumer Product Safety Comm'n v. GTE Sylvania, Inc., 447 U.S. 102, 108 .
As originally enacted in 1927, the Act gave an injured longshoreman the right to elect between the certain recovery of compensation from his employer without any proof of fault, or the less certain, but probably more generous, remedy of an action for damages against a negligent third party. 13 The employee's election to accept compensation under the Act effected an immediate assignment to his employer of his cause of action for negligence. 14 Under the original Act, the longshoreman could pursue either remedy but not both, and nothing more than the acceptance of compensation was required to evidence the employee's election. See, e. g., Toomey v. Waterman S.S. Corp., 123 F.2d 718, 721 (CA2 1941).
In 1938, Congress amended the Act to provide that the [451 U.S. 596, 605] acceptance of compensation would operate as an assignment only if the payment was "under an award in a compensation order filed by the deputy commissioner." 15 This procedural change was designed to protect the employee from the harsh consequences of an improvident election. 16 Although Congress thereby reduced the danger that an employee would make an election without being advised about its consequences, the 1938 amendment did nothing to mitigate those consequences once the election was made.
In 1956, this Court held that an injured longshoreman could enforce his right of action against a third party, notwithstanding his acceptance of compensation from his employer. Czaplicki v. The Hoegh Silvercloud, supra. 17 In [451 U.S. 596, 606] that case, both the employer and the third party allegedly responsible for the unseaworthy condition that had caused the employee's injury were insured by the Travelers Insurance Co. Because the stevedore had no interest in recovering the compensation payments that had been made by its insurance carrier, 18 and because that carrier would be responsible for both prosecuting and defending any third-party claim, no one other than the injured longshoreman had a sufficient interest in the claim to bring suit. Because of the conflict between the assignee's interest and the interest of the employee, the Court construed the Act to allow the longshoreman to enforce the third-party claim in his own name. 19 The Court [451 U.S. 596, 607] did not hold that no assignment had occurred; rather, it held that under "the peculiar facts" of the case, the election and consequent assignment did not bar the employee's action. 20
Two years after Czaplicki, in Johnson v. Sword Line, Inc., 257 F.2d 541 (1958), the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that a different sort of conflict of interest would also preserve the longshoreman's right to sue a third party after accepting compensation from his employer. This Court had previously held, in Ryan Stevedoring Co. v. Pan-Atlantic S.S. Corp., 350 U.S. 124 , that a shipowner who was liable to a longshoreman could assert a claim for indemnity against the employer-stevedore. That holding inevitably created a [451 U.S. 596, 608] conflict between the stevedore's interest in recouping the compensation awarded to the longshoreman and its interest in avoiding the risk of a substantially larger liability as an indemnitor. The Court of Appeals reasoned that the stevedore's potential liability under the indemnity claim authorized by Ryan Stevedoring had the practical effect of enlarging the conflict-of-interest rationale of Czaplicki, which had narrowly rested on the peculiar facts of that case, to encompass substantially every case in which a stevedore failed to bring a third-party action. 21 Accordingly, the court concluded that a conflict of interest could be presumed to exist whenever the statutory assignee failed to pursue or to reassign the assigned claim, unless that claim was obviously lacking in merit. See 257 F.2d, at 544-546. 22 [451 U.S. 596, 609]
The impact of Ryan Stevedoring upon third-party claims assigned to employers by operation of 33 (b) was brought to the attention of Congress as well. In 1956, a House Sub-committee conducted hearings on proposed legislation that ultimately evolved into the 1959 amendments to the Act. 23 One of the bills considered by the Subcommittee was H. R. 5357, which provided, among other things, that an employee could commence a third-party suit within six months after accepting compensation, and that an employer who successfully pursued an assigned third-party claim was entitled to keep one-third of any net recovery. As explained by Congressman Zelenko, the bill's author, these provisions were designed to mitigate the problems identified in Justice Black's dissenting opinion in Ryan Stevedoring. 24 Other witnesses [451 U.S. 596, 610] appearing before the Subcommittee also expressed concern about the conflict-of-interest problem created by Ryan Stevedoring and endorsed H. R. 5357 as an effective solution to that problem. 25
In 1959, Congress acted to remedy the problems created by the potential conflict between the interests of the employer and the employee in prosecuting third-party claims. 26 Its solution was not to create or to define an exception to the assignment by operation of law. Rather, Congress substantially adopted the central provisions of the Zelenko bill by amending 33 (b) to postpone the assignment by operation of law until six months after the acceptance of compensation under an award, and by amending 33 (e) to allow an employer to retain one-fifth of the net proceeds of its successful [451 U.S. 596, 611] third-party action. 27 The effect of the 6-month provision, of course, was to give the longshoreman an unqualified right to bring a third-party action during the 6-month period. If his financial circumstances made it imperative that he accept a prompt settlement of his compensation claim, he could do so without forfeiting his right to seek a more liberal recovery from a responsible third party. Moreover, by bringing his own action, the longshoreman could avoid the risk that his employer's potential conflict of interest - or possibly erroneous evaluation of the merits of the claim - might result in its abandonment. 28 The amendment to 33 (e) provided an additional incentive to the employer to sue after assignment of the claim by giving him a share in any excess recovery.
Nothing in the 1959 amendments purports to preserve the employee's right to commence a third-party suit after the 6-month period expires. Although the amendments encourage employers to pursue assigned claims, they do not qualify the assignee's control of the cause of action after the assignment takes place. To the contrary, the legislative history indicates [451 U.S. 596, 612] that once the 6-month period expires, the employer possesses complete control of third-party claims. 29
This history forecloses the argument that Congress did not intend an assignment of a third-party claim to be effective unless there was an absence of any potential conflict of interest between the assignee and the longshoreman. The statutory language provides a different and clearly defined solution to the conflict-of-interest problem that had been created by Ryan Stevedoring. 30 Congress unequivocally made the choice in favor of first giving the employee exclusive control of the cause of action for a 6-month period and then giving the employer exclusive control thereafter, instead of opting for any form of simultaneous joint or partial control. The simple standard set forth in 33 (b) protects the interests of both employees and employers, and is consistent with the general policy of the Act to encourage the prompt and efficient administration of compensation claims. See Potomac Electric Power Co. v. Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, 449 U.S. 268, 282 .
Although the assignment at the end of the 6-month period occurs automatically, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has held that the employee retains a right after assignment to compel the assignee either to bring a third-party suit or to reassign the cause of action to the employee in response to a formal request to do so. See Caldwell v. Ogden Sea Transport, Inc., 618 F.2d 1037 (1980). The court "readily found" the procedural mechanism for implementing this nonstatutory right to a reassignment, id., at 1046, but we [451 U.S. 596, 613] find no evidence that Congress created either the substantive right itself or the procedural rights that the court discerned.
The predicate for the Fourth Circuit's analysis was an assumption that Congress did not intend to allow the longshoreman to lose his rights against a third party simply because (a) he failed to take any action within six months and (b) his employer decided not to sue the third party thereafter. 31 To avoid the "practical problem" presented in such a situation, the court fashioned a "solution" that the Act "does not specifically provide." Id., at 1045. We are persuaded that the reason Congress did not specifically provide the solution which the court readily found is that Congress did indeed intend to require the employee either to act promptly or to accept the consequences of an assignment of [451 U.S. 596, 614] his claim to the employer. 32 One of the consequences of such an assignment is the risk that the employer will choose not to sue. The comprehensive character of the procedures outlined in the Act precludes the fashioning of an entirely new set of remedies to deal with an aspect of a problem that Congress expressly addressed. 33 The fact that parties sometimes fail to assert meritorious claims within the period authorized by law is not a sufficient reason for refusing to enforce an unequivocal statutory bar.
Finally, relying upon Edmonds v. Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, 443 U.S. 256 , petitioners argue that Congress' failure to amend 33 (b) in 1972, when the Act was thoroughly re-examined, evidences implicit congressional approval of the decision of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Potomac Electric Power Co. v. Wynn, 120 U.S. App. D.C. 13, 343 F.2d 295 (1965) (per curiam). In that case, the court held that a longshoreman who has accepted compensation under an award may maintain a third-party action whenever it becomes evident that his employer has no intention to file suit on the assigned claim. Id., at 16, 343 F.2d, at 298. See also Joyner v. F & B Enterprises, Inc., 145 U.S. App. D.C. 262, 264, 448 F.2d 1185, [451 U.S. 596, 615] 1187 (1971). The court construed the 1959 amendments as enlarging the employee's protection, and considered the rationale of Czaplicki to apply whenever a potential conflict of interest is present. In its judgment, the employer's failure to sue was sufficient evidence of a conflict to justify an independent action by the employee, notwithstanding the assignment provisions in the Act. 34 120 U.S. App. D.C., at 16, 343 F.2d, at 298.
For reasons already stated, we are satisfied that that opinion did not correctly construe the 1959 amendments. 35 It is true that Congress did not expressly disclaim that case in 1972, but that legislative inaction does not modify the plain terms of the 1959 amendments. Nor did Congress expressly endorse the Wynn decision. More importantly, the statutory [451 U.S. 596, 616] interpretation announced in Wynn can hardly be compared to the well-established rule of maritime law at issue in Edmonds. There is no reason to believe that "Congress has relied upon conditions" that Wynn created. Edmonds, supra, at 273. 36 In fact, the statutory changes adopted in 1972 are entirely consistent with our interpretation of 33 (b). Moreover, those changes remind us that one of the purposes of the Act is to minimize the need for litigation as a means of providing compensation for injured workmen. See Bloomer, 445 U.S., at 86 .
Three of the 1972 Amendments are pertinent. First, the level of benefits was substantially increased, thereby increasing the likelihood that the statutory compensation recoverable without proof of fault would be adequate. 37 Second, the shipowner's right to seek indemnity from the stevedore under Ryan Stevedoring was eliminated, thereby removing a category of litigation from the courts, placing more definite limits on the stevedore's insurance costs, and removing a potential source of conflict between the interests of employers and employees. 38 Third, the shipowner's nearly absolute liability for unseaworthiness was eliminated, thereby further narrowing the area of potential litigation and increasing the relative importance of statutory awards as the favored method of compensation. 39 See generally Scindia Steam Navigation Co. [451 U.S. 596, 617] v. De Los Santos, ante, at 164-165. In making these changes, Congress necessarily balanced the conflicting interests of the vessel owner, the stevedore, and the longshoreman. As with other problems of interpreting the intent of Congress in fashioning various details of this legislative compromise, the wisest course is to adhere closely to what Congress has written. 40 The meaning of 33 (b) is plain and should be respected.
In sum, we conclude that the Court of Appeals in these cases correctly held that 33 (b) precludes petitioners from pursuing their third-party claims. Whatever the continued validity of our decision in Czaplicki, a question we need not and do not decide today, 41 these cases do not involve "the [451 U.S. 596, 618] peculiar facts" on which Czaplicki was based. Rather, petitioners essentially have relied upon conflicts inherent in the statutory scheme and in the relationships among longshoremen, stevedores, and shipowners. The notion adopted in some post-Czaplicki decisions that a conflict of interest may be presumed whenever an employer does not sue on an assigned claim is simply untenable in light of the plain statutory language and the history of the 1959 and 1972 Amendments. We leave for another day the question whether an assignment under 33 (b) will bar a longshoreman's third-party action if there is specific evidence of a serious conflict of interest Congress could not have foreseen when it enacted and amended 33.
The judgments of the Court of Appeals are
[ Footnote 2 ] Section 33 (b) of the Act provides:
[ Footnote 3 ] In the Rodriguez and Barulec cases, the plaintiffs and their employers agreed to settlements in informal conferences convened by the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs. Although a since-amended regulation required that such settlements be embodied in formal compensation orders, see 20 CFR 702.315 (a) (1976), no formal orders were entered in these cases. Accordingly, the plaintiffs argued in the lower courts that the assignment provision of 33 (b) had not been activated because they had not accepted "compensation under an award in a compensation order [451 U.S. 596, 599] filed by the deputy commissioner or Board," as required by the statute. The District Courts rejected petitioners' argument, concluding that settlement agreements reached after official informal conferences were equivalent to formal orders for purposes of 33 (b). See Rodriguez, supra, at 1018-1020; Barulec, 471 F. Supp., at 360-362. The Court of Appeals agreed. See 617 F.2d, at 958-960. Although petitioners challenged this ruling in their petition for certiorari, our order granting the petition did not extend to this question. 449 U.S. 818 . Accordingly, for purposes of our decision, we assume that their acceptance of compensation operated as an assignment under 33 (b). Petitioner Perez apparently did not contend below that he had not accepted "compensation under an award" within the meaning of 33 (b). See 468 F. Supp. 799 (SDNY 1979).
[ Footnote 4 ] Rodriguez filed suit approximately 32 months, Perez filed suit approximately 15 months, and Barulec filed suit approximately 1 year after accepting compensation. See 617 F.2d, at 957; Perez, 468 F. Supp., at 800; Barulec, 471 F. Supp., at 359.
[ Footnote 5 ] The Act expressly provides that the employee is not required to elect between his right to compensation from his employer and his claim for damages against a third party. Section 33 (a), as set forth in 33 U.S.C. 933 (a), provides:
[ Footnote 6 ] In all three cases, although the District Courts rejected the contention that a stevedore's failure to pursue an assigned claim, without more, establishes a conflict of interest resulting in reassignment of the claim to the longshoreman, the plaintiffs were given an opportunity to present evidence establishing a specific conflict of interest, such as that found in Czaplicki v. The Hoegh Silvercloud, 351 U.S. 525 . See Rodriguez, supra, at 1023; Perez, 468 F. Supp., at 801; Barulec, 471 F. Supp., at 362. Despite the opportunity to pursue further discovery, none of the plaintiffs was able to present evidence supporting his conflict-of-interest allegation, and the District Courts accordingly entered summary judgment in favor of the shipowners.
[ Footnote 7 ] See n. 1, supra.
[ Footnote 8 ] The Fourth Circuit issued its opinion in Caldwell eight days after the Rodriguez opinion was issued by the Second Circuit.
[ Footnote 9 ] Section 33 (f) of the Act, as set forth in 33 U.S.C. 933 (f), provides:
[ Footnote 10 ] Section 33 (e) of the Act, as set forth in 33 U.S.C. 933 (e), provides:
[ Footnote 12 ] See nn. 3, 4, supra.
[ Footnote 13 ] As originally enacted, and until 1959, 33 (a) read:
[ Footnote 14 ] The original 33 (b) provided:
[ Footnote 15 ] From 1938 until 1959, 33 (b) provided:
[ Footnote 16 ] The amendment's purpose was explained in the House Report:
[ Footnote 17 ] In the interim between the 1938 amendment and the decision in Czaplicki, this Court issued two decisions of some significance to the present case. In 1946, in Seas Shipping Co. v. Sieracki, 328 U.S. 85 , the Court concluded that an injured longshoreman could pursue a third-party [451 U.S. 596, 605] claim against a shipowner for unseaworthiness, as well as for negligence. In 1956, in Ryan Stevedoring Co. v. Pan-Atlantic S.S. Corp., 350 U.S. 124 , the Court held that a shipowner found liable to a longshoreman for damages in a third-party action could seek indemnification from the stevedore based upon the stevedore's contractual duty to provide workmanlike service. Congress in 1972 overruled both Sieracki and Ryan Stevedoring. See Edmonds v. Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, 443 U.S., at 262 .
[ Footnote 18 ] Section 33 (i) of the Act as it read in 1956 provided that a stevedore's compensation insurer was subrogated to the stevedore's rights in the assigned claim. "Travelers, therefore, was the proper party to sue on those rights of action." 351 U.S., at 529 . The subrogation provision is now 33 (h), 33 U.S.C. 933 (h).
[ Footnote 19 ] The Court explained its reasoning in detail:
[ Footnote 20 ] At several points in the Czaplicki opinion, the Court emphasized the limited nature of its holding:
[ Footnote 21 ] The Court of Appeals explained the conflict created by Ryan Stevedoring:
[ Footnote 22 ] Cf. Di Somma v. N. V. Koninklyke Nederlandsche Stoomboot, 188 F. Supp. 292 (SDNY 1960). This expansion of Czaplicki was not, however, uniformly accepted by all federal courts. Other courts rejected a broad reading of Czaplicki and limited the conflict-of-interest exception [451 U.S. 596, 609] to the peculiar situation presented in that case. See, e. g., Sabol v. Merritt Chapman & Scott Corp., 241 F.2d 765 (CA2 1957).
[ Footnote 23 ] See Hearings before a Special Subcommittee of the House Committee on Education and Labor on Bills Relating to the Longshoremen's and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act, 84th Cong., 2d Sess. (May 23, 24, and June 11, 1956) (House Hearings).
[ Footnote 24 ] Congressman Zelenko opened his testimony by inserting into the record a copy of the Ryan Stevedoring decision, which he asserted "endangered or seriously weakened" the right of longshoremen to recover from third parties. See House Hearings, at 1. Congressman Zelenko indicated that Justice Black's dissent accurately summarized the damaging effects of that decision. Id., at 12. He went on to explain:
[ Footnote 25 ] See, e. g., id., at 28, 44-45, 61-62, 72, 103-105, 106-107, 110, 115, 124-125. Cf. id., at 83-84, 92-93. It should be noted that at the time of these hearings Czaplicki was pending before this Court. Czaplicki's attorneys participated in the hearings, and described to the Subcommittee the facts of Czaplicki and the Court of Appeals' decision in that case. They also informed the Subcommittee that this Court had granted Czaplicki's petition for certiorari, and that the case had been argued. See House Hearings, at 59, 62.
[ Footnote 26 ] The House Report on a predecessor of the bill that amended 33 (b) in 1959 stated:
[ Footnote 27 ] At the same time, Congress amended 33 (a) to provide expressly that the employee need not elect between his statutory right to compensation from his employer and his claim against a third party. See n. 5, supra.
[ Footnote 28 ] The Senate Report contained the following evaluation of the bill amending 33 (b):
[ Footnote 29 ] See id., at 2-3; H. R. Rep. No. 229, supra, at 3-4. See also House Hearings, at 15, 19-20, 44-45.
[ Footnote 30 ] Whether the statutory language provides the exclusive solution for unusual conflict-of-interest problems, such as that identified in Czaplicki, is a question that is not presented on the facts of these cases. We accordingly do not decide whether, or to what extent, Czaplicki survived the 1959 amendments.
[ Footnote 31 ] "Ordinarily, therefore, it is likely that the interests of both longshoreman and assignee in having their substantive rights pursued and of the third person in facing a single action will be achieved under LHWCA.
[ Footnote 32 ] The District Court in the Perez case aptly evaluated the so-called "problem" created by an employer's failure to sue after statutory assignment of the employee's cause of action:
[ Footnote 33 ] "Consequently, as we have done before, we must reject a `theory that nowhere appears in the Act, that was never mentioned by Congress during the legislative process, that does not comport with Congress' intent, and that restricts . . . a remedial Act . . . .' Northeast Marine Terminal Co. v. Caputo, 432 U.S., at 278 -279." Edmonds v. Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, 443 U.S., at 271 .
[ Footnote 34 ] Petitioners suggest that such an automatic rule is justified because of a stevedore's normal reluctance to file suit against a customer. However, in rejecting a similar conflict-of-interest argument, the District Court in Hernandez v. Costa Armatori, S. p. A., 467 F. Supp., at 1067-1068, identified the flaw in this reasoning:
[ Footnote 35 ] Nor did it correctly construe Czaplicki. As discussed supra, at 605-607, that decision was narrowly drawn to redress certain inequities that arose from "the peculiar facts" of that case. Czaplicki did not hold that the 33 (b) assignment could be avoided whenever an employer failed to pursue an assigned claim.
[ Footnote 36 ] Indeed, shortly after Wynn was decided, the Fifth Circuit concluded that, while Czaplicki was still good law, it should be narrowly applied to specific conflicts of interest identified on a case-by-case basis. See McClendon v. Charente Steamship Co., 348 F.2d 298, 301-303 (1965). The court expressly declined to adopt the automatic rule applied in Wynn. See 348 F.2d, at 303.
[ Footnote 38 ] See Edmonds v. Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, supra, at 262.
[ Footnote 39 ] In its explanation of the reasons for eliminating the unseaworthiness remedy, the House Report accompanying the 1972 Amendments stated:
[ Footnote 40 ] "Congress has put down its pen, and we can neither rewrite Congress' words nor call it back `to cancel half a Line.' Our task is to interpret what Congress has said . . . ." Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs v. Rasmussen, supra, at 47.
[ Footnote 41 ] As our analysis indicates, the 1959 and 1972 Amendments have substantially undercut the basis for the Czaplicki exception to 33 (b). The Court was troubled in Czaplicki because under the Act in 1956 there was "no other procedure" by which a longshoreman could enforce his rights against a third party where the employer failed to sue due to a conflict of interest. 351 U.S., at 532 -533. After the 1959 amendments, there is such a procedure: the employee may simply file his own third-party suit within six months after accepting compensation.
Similarly, to the extent that Czaplicki and its progeny sought to [451 U.S. 596, 618] mitigate the conflict of interest created by Ryan Stevedoring, the 1972 Amendments eliminate the need for a judicially created exception to 33 (b):