Wilson v. Creamer-Sanzari Joint Venture, No. 19-3542 (3d Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Wilson was a marine construction worker on the New Jersey Route 3 bridge replacement project, which spans the Lower Passaic River from Clifton to Rutherford, at a location where the navigation channel was authorized to be 150 feet wide and 10 feet deep. Wilson drove steel piles for a cofferdam, a watertight structure that allows construction below the waterline, and was routinely exposed to extremely loud working conditions. He was diagnosed with a permanent hearing impairment resulting from those conditions. Wilson sought compensation benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, 33 U.S.C. 901–50. An ALJ and the Benefits Review Board dismissed Wilson’s claim, finding that he was not covered under the LHWCA because he was not injured on navigable waters of the United States.
The Third Circuit reversed. The waters where Wilson was injured were navigable, looking to whether a waterway “by itself or by uniting with other waterways, forms a continuous [commercial] highway,” and whether commercial vessels could navigate within the noted physical constraints. There were no impediments blocking the navigation channel between its confluence with the Newark Bay and the Route 3 bridge. At all points in between, the channel exceeded four feet in depth and 72 feet in width.