Is a Pre-deployment Injury Covered Under the Defense Base Act?
Legal disputes often arise around injuries that occur during the preparation phase for overseas deployment, particularly amongst military contractors. A common question that recurs in DBA law is whether such pre-deployment injuries fall within the purview of the Defense Base Act.
To answer this, the experienced DBA attorneys at Cantrell Green explain into the specifics of the Defense Base Act, as it relates to compensation for pre-deployment injuries.
The Defense Base Act
The Defense Base Act (DBA), 42 USC § 1651 et seq, is a federal law that provides workers’ compensation protection to civilian employees working outside the United States on U.S. military bases or under a contract with the U.S. government for public works or for national defense.
Section 1(a)(4) of the Defense Base Act provides that:
Except as herein modified the provisions of the Longshoremen’s and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act as amended, shall apply in respect to the injury or death of any employee engaged in any employment…Under a contract entered into with the United States or any executive department, independent establishment, or agency thereof (including any corporate instrumentality of the United States), or any subcontract, or subordinate contract with respect to such contract, where such contract is to be performed outside the continental United States and at places not within the areas described in subparagraphs (1), (2), and (3) of this subdivision…
This provision implies that the Defense Base Act coverage extends to an employee if they sustain an injury while engaged in activities related to their employment duties within the United States under a contract to be performed outside of the United States. Such activities could include job training, physical conditioning, orientation, travel, and other administrative procedures related to the employee’s processing.
DBA Pre-Deployment Injury Cases
Several landmark cases have broadened the scope of the Defense Base Act, extending its coverage to include certain stateside injuries.
DBA Case Study 1: Phoenix Indemnity Co. v Willard
In Phoenix Indemnity Co. v Willard, the claimant was injured in the United States during the pre-deployment phase for an assignment in Libya. The court ruled that the injury sustained during preparation for overseas deployment was integral to the employment and thus, covered by the Defense Base Act. The court stated:
The Defense Base Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 1651, prescribes compensation for an injury during transportation to or from the place of employment when the employer, as here, provides the transportation at its cost. In a sense Peretti’s waiting in preparation for his trip overseas was so clearly bound up with it as to be reasonably considered as part of his transportation, just as a stopover en route might be. In any event, it was sufficiently related to his employment and so incidental to the necessary preparation for his overseas assignment as to make the injury sustained, under all the circumstances here disclosed, one arising out of and in the course of his employment.
DBA Case Study 2: Employers’ Mutual Liability Insurance Co. v McLellan
An additional case, Employers’ Mutual Liability Insurance Co. v McLellan, involved a flight engineer killed in a plane crash in the United States while en route to Okinawa. The court held that the statutory definition of public work was sufficiently broad to have encompassed the contracted activities, and that Defense Base Act coverage extended even though the injury occurred in the United States:
The flight originated at Travis Air Force Base, California, and was destined for Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa. However, death occurred in the United States when the plane crashed in Alaska. It is apparent that the contract was to be performed outside the continental United States within the meaning of the statute. While it may be that performance was to take place partially within the United States in that loading of the aircraft would necessarily take place here, the purpose of the contract was to transport supplies outside of the continental United States.
The performance within the United States, while necessary, was incidental in contrast to the performance without the United States. In any event, the statute does not say that all aspects of performance under the contract have to occur outside of the continental United States. Plaintiffs have advanced no reason why Congress would have sought to exclude an accident occurring under the circumstances of the case at bar from the coverage of the Act. The statute should be read liberally in order to carry out its remedial purposes.
This case, along with others like Alaska Airlines, Inc. v. O’Leary, 216 F. Supp. 540 (W.D.Wash.1963), have expanded the interpretation of the Defense Base Act, underscoring that the coverage begins once a worker signs their employment contract and initiates associated activities for deployment.
Defense Base Act Attorneys | Pre-deployment Injury
Injuries sustained during pre-deployment activities, including training, travel, and other related tasks, have been found to fall within the coverage of the Defense Base Act. However, the specifics of each case may affect its outcome, and it is crucial to consult with an experienced Defense Base Act Attorney.
For a comprehensive understanding of your rights and potential claims under the Defense Base Act, feel free to reach out to the Law Offices of Cantrell Green. With a free claim consultation, we can help you identify and secure all available benefits under the Defense Base Act. Contact us today.
Free Consultation with a Defense Base Act Attorney: 800-964-8047