2015 Changes Affect Longshore & Defense Base Act Cases –
Significant changes have recently been made to the procedures for handling Longshore and Defense Base Act claims. The new “Rules of Practice and Procedure for Administrative Hearings Before the Office of Administrative Law Judges” effect how claimants and their lawyers need to handle both Longshore and Defense Base Act cases.
While these changes in procedure were aimed at protecting of the integrity of the claims process, our experienced lawyers believe that some of the new rules may also unfortunately result in increased costs and other hardships for Longshore and DBA litigants.
The new Rules fall into three basic categories: sanctions, discovery, and experts.
(1.) Sanctions in Longshore and Defense Base Act Claims – Lawyers
Under the new rules, several new significant sanctions (penalties) may be assessed, that were not allowed before. Previously, only federal district courts judges had the power to punish “conduct consisting of a refusal to comply with a judge’s order, lawful process or subpoena, or hearing room misbehavior” – while the Administrative Law Judges (“ALJs”) did not have these broad powers.
The new rules now give the ALJs much broader authority to regulate both attorney, claimant & expert witnesses – which could result in greater sanctions / penalties for applicants who inadvertently “break the rules”.
(2.) Discovery in Longshore and Defense Base Act Claims – Lawyers
Pursuant to the new Rules, “discovery” (legal request for evidence or information from the other side) cannot be served until after an Administrative Law Judge issues an initial notice or order. Previously, Longshore and DBA litigants were simply able to use the district director’s referral letter as the start date for discovery requests. Now, the parties have to wait for an initial notice or order.
While this delay in discovery date is supposed to “promote uniformity and predictability”, our experienced Longshore & DBA lawyers have concerns that this may also delay the entire decision process. We feel that the sooner parties can be collecting information and evidence, the faster and smoother the case will progress.
(3.) Experts in Longshore and Defense Base Act Claims – Lawyers
Another important change in the Rules is the requirement that expert witnesses must now provide a lot of information that was not previously required in Longshore and DBA claims.
The new expert witness Rule states that expert witness reports must contain:
- A complete statement of all opinions the witness will express and the basis and reasons for them;
- The facts or data considered by the witness in forming them;
- Any exhibits that will be used to summarize or support them;
- The witness’s qualifications, including a list of all publications authored in the previous 10 years;
- A list of all other cases in which, during the previous 4 years, the witness testified as an expert at trial, a hearing, or by deposition; and,
- A statement of the compensation to be paid for the study and testimony in the case.
As experienced Longshore and defense Base Act lawyers, we have some concerns that these new is burdensome requirements may add to delays and additional expenses for the claimant, as expert witnesses are now faced with the onerous burden of supplying all of this additional – and often irrelevant information.
In conclusion, if you are facing a Longshore or Defense Base Act claim, now more than ever it is important to have an experienced lawyer by your side who understands these cumbersome new Rules and can navigate the complicated procedures to ensure that you receive the maximum benefits for which you qualify.
Call Our Experienced Longshore & Defense Base Act Lawyers Today
Our experienced lawyers have handled hundreds of Defense Base Act and Longshore cases and appeals, and we pride ourselves on staying current on every change in law or regulation. Call us today if you have a Longshore or DBA case.