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Judge stays Navy rape suit because of questions over comp exclusivity

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Navy

A federal judge has halted a lawsuit by a civilian U.S. Navy engineer who alleges she was raped while working aboard a naval ship because of questions over workers compensation exclusive remedy.

U.S. District Judge Edward Kiel, of the District of New Jersey, granted on Tuesday a motion by the federal government to stay a lawsuit by the Navy engineer, who claims she was raped in December 2021 by the ship’s captain.

The alleged incident occurred during a night when the crew was drinking at a bar in Italy. The engineer claimed she had very little to drink and believes her drink was drugged because she later passed out. She claims the rape occurred later that night.

U.S. government lawyers in February sought to stay the lawsuit, claiming civilian workers are considered federal employees while working aboard naval ships, and that job-related injuries are covered by federal workers comp.  

In its filing, the government said if the rape allegations are found to be true, “there is a substantial likelihood that her claim would be covered by” federal workers compensation benefits. The government contended that if the Labor Department finds the injuries noncompensable, the engineer would still be able to maintain her lawsuit.