United States District Court, District of Alaska (2022)
In Beach v. United States, 602 F. Supp. 3d 1192 (D. Alaska 2022), the district court held that the
United States met the statutory definition of a “project owner” and thus was immune from
negligence claims brought by a worker electrocuted while working in a housing unit on a military
base. (Id. at 1204). In 2013, the United States and contractor Corvais Air Force Living (CAFL)
entered a lease for the revitalization of military housing on Eielson Air Force Base. (Id. at 1195).
Pursuant to the lease, the United States conveyed title to the housing units to be improved by
quitclaim deed to CAFL. (Id. at 1195–96.) Beach, a construction company employee, was
allegedly electrocuted while working in one of these housing units, and thus brought negligence
claims against the United States. (Id. at 1194). The United States responded with a motion to
dismiss, arguing that Beach’s claims were barred by the exclusive remedy provision of the Alaska
Workers’ Compensation Act (AWCA). (Id. at 1198). The district court concluded that the United
States was a “project owner” potentially liable for providing workers’ compensation for contractor
employees under the ACWA. (Id. at 1204). Finding that the United States’ contract with CAFL
obliged CAFL to maintain the housing units on Eielson Air Force Base in good condition was a
sufficient nexus between the work Beach was doing and the parties’ contract, the district court
found that the United States engaged the services of a contractor for purposes of the ACWA. (Id.
at 1202–03). Finally, the court agreed that the United States met the remaining elements of the
statutory definition of a project owner, as it procured the services of a contractor, did so for
government business, and enjoyed beneficial use of the work CAFL contracted to do. (Id.). As a
result, the district court held that the United States was a project owner for ACWA purposes,
rendering it immune from Beach’s negligence claims under the exclusive remedy provision of the
ACWA. (Id. at 1204).