Claims for workers’ compensation by injured workers have to go through an arduous administrative hearing process before they can be heard in court. That process has gotten more blatantly anti-worker in recent years. This is especially true for claims demanding compensation from the Second Injury Fund.
A recent workers’ compensation case shows this in clear detail.
Judge Denies Compensation for All Injuries; Forgets to Mention One
The case is Fields v. Treasurer of Missouri.
The worker was an airline baggage handler. Over the course of several years at work, he suffered several injuries to his back, each of which aggravated the last. Meanwhile, he was slowly suffering from hearing loss, as his job required him to be next to loud conveyor belts all day.
It was stipulated this his hearing loss was 10.25 percent.
The worker filed for workers’ compensation for his injuries. The administrative law judge, however, denied them all. The judge said that the worker had not proven the percentage of disability for his back injuries. The judge never mentioned the worker’s hearing loss.
The worker appealed the decision to the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission.
Commission Supports Judge’s Ruling
The Commission, though, merely filled in the blanks to support the administrative judge’s decision.
While the Commission admitted that the worker had, in fact, proven the percentage of disability for his hearing loss – it was 10.25 percent – the Commission added that it didn’t matter. The hearing loss claim was the most recent, and therefore primary, injury, and was also an occupational disease. The Commission claimed that this triggered Missouri Statute 287.220.3. This statute puts drastic limits on the compensation for occupational disease claims that were the primary injury and that were filed after January 1, 2014.
Because the worker filed his hearing loss claim on August 1, 2014, that Commission said that those statutory limits prevented him from recovering anything from the Second Injury Fund.
Commission Ignores Court Rulings to Deny Recovery
In deciding this, though, the Commission admitted that it was running contrary to a Missouri Court of Appeals decision, Krysl v. Treasurer of Missouri. In Krysl, the appellate court found it was that the date of the injury, rather than the date of the filing, that mattered.
The appellate court’s reasoning is simple. Missouri Statute 287.220.3 lays out what happens to “claims against the second injury fund involving a subsequent compensable injury which is an occupational disease filed after January 1, 2014.” However, another section of the law, 287.220.2, deals with “all cases of permanent disability where there has been previous disability due to injuries occurring prior to January 1, 2014.”
In Krysl, the Missouri Court of Appeals decided that, when these two sections of 287.220 conflict, subsection (2) takes over.
In spite of this clear directive from a court that binds the Commission, the Commission denied workers’ compensation to the injured airline worker for his hearing loss.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
This is not the first time that the Commission refused to follow a court ruling in order to deny recovery. The trend is concerning to the workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyers at the Smith Law Office.
Contact them online or call them at (816) 875-9373 for help.