WA Legal Roundup: Division II
Maziar sued his employer, DOC, under federal maritime tort claims, for injuries he sustained during a commute from McNeil Island on a DOC-run ferry. The trial court dismissed his claim in a summary judgment order in favor of the DOC. Maziar argues that the Industrial Insurance Act does not preclude his maritime claims, that the federal maritime law controls over the State’s workers compensation laws, and disputes the DOC’s argument that his claims are barred by sovereign immunity.
The appeals court ruled that although the IIA bars civil actions for personal injuries at work, the Constitution grants the federal government jurisdiction over maritime disputes and also the authority to create the substantive law to be applied in maritime actions. The court ruled that although maritime jurisdiction applies, it does not always exclude state law. The court analyzed several cases on the topic from the Supreme Court of the US as well as 9th circuit cases. The court reasoned that if they applied the “maritime but local” doctrine stated in the case law, the facts in the case at present were distinguishable from those in favor of the state law because in the present case, Maziar was on the ferry for the sole purpose of being transported to and from work. The court found his purpose for being on the ferry to fit within the pure maritime activities under the federal jurisdiction of which the state law could not bar.
The court further held that under RCW 4.92.090, the State waived its sovereign immunity as to claims like Maziar’s. The court reversed and remanded for trial.