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Goodyear Atomic Corp. v. Miller, 486 U.S. 174 (1988)

Goodyear Atomic Corp. v. Miller

No. 86-1172

Argued January 19, 1988

Decided May 23, 1988

486 U.S. 174


Appellee Miller, an employee of appellant at an Ohio nuclear production facility owned by the United States but operated by appellant, a private contractor, received a workers' compensation award from appellee Ohio Industrial Commission (Commission) for injuries sustained in a fall allegedly caused by a bolt protruding from the scaffold on which he was working. On the basis of a state safety regulation prohibiting scaffolds from having projecting parts, Miller then sought a supplemental award under a state constitutional provision authorizing such an award when an injury is caused by an employer's failure to comply with any specific state safety requirement. The Commission denied the claim, but the State Court of Appeals ordered the Commission to consider Miller's supplemental application. The State Supreme Court affirmed, ruling that federal law did not preempt Ohio from applying safety requirements unrelated to radiation hazards to nuclear facilities.


1. This Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1257(2), since the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the application of the State's additional award provision to the facility in question as against the contention that such application violated the Supremacy Clause of the Federal Constitution. Cf. Japan Line, Ltd. v. County of Los Angeles, 441 U. S. 434. Application of the "pragmatic approach" utilized in Cox Broadcasting Corp. v. Cohn, 420 U. S. 469, 420 U. S. 486, compels the conclusion that the state court's judgment was "final" within the meaning of § 1257, even though further proceedings before the Commission are anticipated, since the judgment finally determined the federal preemption question, and a reversal of that judgment would preclude any further proceedings. Moreover, even if appellant prevails before the Commission on nonfederal grounds, the State Supreme Court's unreviewed decision might seriously erode federal nuclear production policy by sanctioning direct state regulation of nonradiological hazards at the only facility producing nuclear fuel for the Navy, and has important implications for the regulation of federally owned nuclear production facilities in other States. Pp. 486 U. S. 178-180.

2. The Supremacy Clause does not bar Ohio from applying its additional award provision to a private contractor operating a federally owned nuclear production facility that performs a federal function.

Page 486 U. S. 175

Such facilities are shielded from direct state regulation, even though the federal function is carried out by a private contractor, unless Congress provides "clear and unambiguous" authorization for such regulation. Hancock v. Train, 426 U. S. 167. Even if the additional award provision is sufficiently akin to direct state regulation to be potentially barred by the Supremacy Clause, 40 U.S.C. § 290 -- which empowers States to apply "workmen's compensation laws" to federal premises to the same extent as such laws are applied to private facilities -- unambiguously provides the requisite clear congressional authorization for the application of the provision. The contention that the above-quoted, undefined phrase applies only to typical workers' compensation Acts, and not to the additional award provision, cannot be squared with § 290's plain language, which places no express limitation on the type of workers' compensation scheme that is authorized, or with the statute's history, which demonstrates that, at the time of its enactment, a substantial number of States provided additional awards for violation of safety regulations, a matter of which Congress was presumably aware. The fact that, in enacting § 290, Congress rejected a proposal that would have authorized States to apply their safety and insurance laws directly to federal projects does not preclude, and is in fact consistent with, the allowance of additional award provisions' incidental regulatory effects, which are significantly less intrusive than direct regulation on the operation of federal projects. Pp. 486 U. S. 180-186.

26 Ohio St. 3d 110, 497 N.E.2d 76, affirmed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and BRENNAN, BLACKMUN, STEVENS, and SCALIA, JJ., joined. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which O'CONNOR, J., joined, post, p. 486 U. S. 186. KENNEDY, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Page 486 U. S. 176

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