The Supreme Court of Missouri recently handed down a startling decision regarding the workers’ compensation process. The only good news it has for injured workers is that it is unlikely to apply to any cases but the one that it inexplicably brings to a close.
Workers’ Compensation Case Makes it to the Missouri Supreme Court
The case is one that we have blogged about before. Like so many others that enter the judicial system in Missouri, it deals with the Second Injury Fund and the disturbing trend of the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission (LIRC) to deny every claim that it can.
To recap briefly, a worker got hurt in October, 2015, aggravating prior injuries. The administrative law judge and the LIRC said that his current injury alone rendered him permanently and totally disabled (PTD) and rejected the worker’s claim against the Second Injury Fund under Missouri Statute 287.220.2.
However, the LIRC failed to do its due diligence. While it was hearing the case, the Missouri Supreme Court issued an opinion, Cosby v. Treasurer of Missouri, which made clear that subsection (3), rather than subsection (2), of Missouri Statute 287.220 should be applied by the LIRC to the case at hand.
The worker appealed the LIRC’s ruling against his claim on the Second Injury Fund, the Missouri Court of Appeals agreed with the worker, and remanded the case back to the LIRC “to consider all the evidence and to make additional factual findings.”
This instruction would prove to be important because the LIRC refused to do it.
Citing Missouri Regulation Title 8 § 20-3.030, the LIRC shut its eyes to any new evidence presented by the hurt worker – evidence necessary to prove his case under subsection (3) rather than (2) – and ruled against him, again.
The worker appealed to the Missouri Court of Appeals, again. The judges said that it did, in fact, mean for the LIRC to take in new evidence for the claim, and also that, even if it did not mean that, the regulation cited by the LIRC allowed for the presentation of new evidence “where it furthers the interests of justice,” which required for the evidence to be heard.
But then the Missouri Supreme Court intervened.
Missouri Supreme Court Issues Head-Scratching Opinion
In Dubuc v. Treasurer of Missouri, all of the judges on the Missouri Supreme Court managed to reason that, somehow, “make additional factual findings” did not entail “allowing additional evidence.” According to the Missouri Supreme Court, “if the court of appeals intended to issue a remand mandate instructing a court to allow additional evidence for making factual findings, it would have so held.”
But that is exactly what the Court of Appeals “so held.”
The second time it so held, the Court of Appeals explicitly stated that “we did not specify when remanding the case that the new factual findings be based on the existing record” and that “justice requires that [the worker] be allowed to present evidence to satisfy the [new] governing legal standard.” It even went so far as to state that not admitting new evidence was an abuse of the LIRC’s discretion.
But according to the Missouri Supreme Court, admitting that new evidence could not get around the regulations cited by the LIRC because admitting new evidence would not even be in the interests of justice: The hurt worker should have anticipated the Supreme Court’s ruling that threw out binding precedent and completely reworked the relevant law regarding what kind of evidence the worker needed to present to recover compensation for his injuries. Instead, the worker had made the terrible decision to rely on a flawed interpretation of the statute by a Missouri Court of Appeal – an interpretation that the Missouri Supreme Court could have corrected when the case was appealed, but chose not to.
To add absurdity to the frustration, all of this litigation was done so the LIRC did not have to spend the time it would take to listen to new evidence. It was all done in the name of conserving judicial resources.
Missouri Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
The personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers at the Smith Law Office help hurt workers recover the compensation they need to recover in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Springfield, and the rest of western Missouri. Contact them online or call them at (816) 875-9373.