Another Missouri appellate court struck down a workers’ compensation decision by the administrative law judge and the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission (LIRC) for contradicting a binding court case. While this instance is more incompetent than purposeful, it is neither the first nor will it be the last time that hurt workers have been denied coverage, as the LIRC stretches for new ways to deny claims, especially those against the Second Injury Fund (SIF).
Administrative Judge and LIRC Contradict Binding Court Cases, Again
The case, Wilson v. Treasurer of State, involved a truck driver with a long history of serious knee injuries and severe heart problems. On November 8, 2017, he was working as a truck driver. He opened the doors to his trailer and cargo fell on his foot, breaking four bones and requiring surgery. The injury did not heal properly which, according to the only doctor who testified in his subsequent workers’ compensation claim for permanent total disability benefits (PTD), was because of the lack of blood flow, due to his heart condition.
The administrative law judge agreed that the worker in Wilson had a PTD because of the combination of the injuries. However, he denied benefits against the SIF because the new injury did not combine with a single preexisting injury.
The worker appealed to the LIRC, and the Commission affirmed the judge’s ruling. The LIRC correctly applied Missouri Statute 287.220(3) to Wilson, but then used its own earlier interpretations of the statute to deny coverage on the basis of there being no single preexisting injury to create a PTD with the new, primary injury.
The problem: The Supreme Court of Missouri, in Treasurer of the State of Missouri v. Parker, has explicitly said that there could be multiple preexisting conditions that combine to make a PTD, so long as each one is eligible.
An Issue of Timing, and the Importance of Staying a Case
Why did the administrative law judge and the LIRC not apply Parker to the case in Wilson? The answer is surprisingly innocuous. The administrative law judge denied the claim on July 21, 2020. The LIRC affirmed the denial on March 19, 2021. The Missouri Supreme Court issued its decision in Parker on April 20, 2021.
The Parker decision did not exist when Wilson was being decided.
But that does not absolve the judge or the LIRC. Parker was before the Missouri Supreme Court when Wilson was just beginning, and both cases hinged on the same question: Whether a single preexisting condition could combine with the primary injury to create a PTD, or whether multiple prior injuries could.
Rather than making their own determination, the judge and the LIRC should have stayed the case in Wilson, delaying it until the state supreme court could make a binding decision. They failed to do so, and that forced the worker in Wilson, and the victims in any of the other similar cases that were also pending while Parker was being decided, to go through the strain and expense of unnecessarily appealing their wrongly and preemptively decided case.
Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
The personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers at the Smith Law Office serve 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 for help.