Once again, the Missouri Court of Appeals had to step in and reverse a workers’ compensation decision by the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission (LIRC) over the Second Injury Fund. These successful appeals all follow a shocking case where the LIRC expressly refused to follow a court ruling.
Injured Worker Appeals Denial of Workers’ Compensation
The case, Marberry v. Second Injury Fund, began when a worker was moving a box from the top of a pallet. His foot got caught in shrink wrap and he fall backwards, hurting his back and neck.
The worker had a history of neck and shoulder injuries that exacerbated this new condition. He filed a workers’ compensation claim, as well as a claim against the Second Injury Fund.
The administrative law judge, however, went to significant lengths to deny the worker recovery from the Second Injury Fund. He said that the worker could not recover compensation from the Second Injury Fund because he “only demonstrates [he has] permanent total disability from a combination of all his injuries, and not simply his primary injury and a single qualifying preexisting disability.”
The LIRC rubber stamped the administrative judge’s ruling. The worker appealed to the Missouri Court of Appeals.
Appellate Court Reverses Denial, Again
The appellate court overruled the LIRC and administrative judge, again, because Missouri workers’ compensation law does not require a permanent total disability (PTD) to come from the primary injury and a single qualifying preexisting injury.
The requirement that workers could only recover from the Second Injury Fund if a single preexisting disability met the qualifications comes from an LIRC decision, Sneed v. Wal-Mart. In that decision, the LIRC acknowledged that it was going against a binding opinion from the Missouri Court of Appeals, Second Injury Fund v. Parker, which had said that multiple preexisting disabilities could be considered. However, the LIRC claimed that it “fundamentally disagreed” with Parker.
Missouri’s appellate courts have since doubled down on Parker, with Wilson v. Treasurer following the same rationale, and the Missouri Supreme Court affirming Parker.
A Problem of the LIRC’s Own Making
This new case, Marberry, is just the latest in a string of censures that the LIRC has gotten from the appellate courts. Those reprimands are well-deserved. The LIRC is bound by the decisions of the state appellate and supreme courts. It is not allowed to fashion new rules that contradict those of the courts. Doing so would create chaos.
We are seeing that chaos. The LIRC’s disturbing trend of pro-business decisions has included an insistence that Second Injury Fund liability requires a single preexisting injury to meet the statutory requirements. The LIRC has been itching to apply this non-law to cases: When it ruled on Wilson, the Parker case was before the Missouri Supreme Court. However, the LIRC did not stay its ruling on Wilson until Parker was resolved. Instead, it plowed ahead with its denial of recovery – a denial that was quickly shown to be wrongful by the Missouri Supreme Court’s decision in Parker, only a month later.
This has wrongfully denied workers’ compensation coverage to numerous hurt workers. Those workers then have to appeal the decision to a Missouri court system which has, again and again, overturned that wrongful denial. This process takes time and money – time and money that an injured worker would not have to spend, had the LIRC done its job correctly.
Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph
The personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers at the Smith Law Office legally represent injured workers in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Springfield, and the rest of western Missouri. Contact them online or call their law office at (816) 875-9373.