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WASHINGTON-Permanently disabled longshoremen can continue to receive nominal disability payments even if they accept jobs that pay them considerably more than they earned before their injuries, according to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a 6-to-3 decision last month in Metropolitan Stevedore Co. vs. Rambo, et al., the high court held "that a worker is entitled to nominal compensation when his work-related injury has not diminished his present wage-earning capacity under current circumstances, but there is a significant potential that the injury will cause diminished capacity under future conditions."

In the opinion written by Justice David Souter, the majority added that "it is likely Congress" intended the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act-which governs workers compensation for dock workers-to "include the injury-related potential for future wage loss" as a covered disability.

The case arose when John Rambo, a Huntington Beach, Calif., longshoreman, suffered a permanent partial disability after injuring his back and leg. He later got a job as a crane operator, earning wages about three times higher than he'd made as a dock worker. His former employer-Metropolitan Stevedore Co.-sought to modify his disability award because of his increased earnings.