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Workers' Compensation

How Do I Love Thee? DE IAB Takes Jurisdiction Of Dispute Over Commutation (Duh!)

Chief Hearing Officer Chris Baum tells me that this release was timed to coincide with the case discussed in my last post, Jesus Silva-Garcia v. City Window Cleaning [see post of 12/1/10 titled "We got you covered..."]  And today's decision is another one of those little legal gems.....let me count the ways...:>)

It's all about jurisdiction.  I think our Board does not much like being told that something is outside its bailiwick.  And after all, there are any number of matters that fall squarely within the Board specialized knowledge and expertise.  BUT- returning to our case, Elizabeth Browning v. Schneider National, IAB #1215693 (11/23/10)(ORDER).

It's not complicated folks.  The parties negotiated a commutation and there was a difference of opinion (or perhaps recollection) as to whether the commutation embraced all future indemnity only, or was a global....meaning it commuted all future indemnity as well as medical treatment entitlement.  The claimant argued that her medicals were being left open and that her settlement was limited to indemnity; the carrier thought it was closing the books on all futures including the medical bills.

Claimant filed in the Court of Chancery (like, who does that?) for specific performance of the settlement agreement and like a Big Mac (or is that a Whopper?), she wanted it her way.  The Court of Chancery declined this controversy on the basis there was an adequate remedy at law.  The Employer filed for an IAB Legal Hearing and the claimant wanted to proceed in the Superior Court and thus argued that the Board lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

I may be missing something, but this sounds like much ado about nothing to me.  The Court of Chancery? Superior Court?  The best arbiter of the terms of a workers’ compensation commutation?  Read the ruling attached in Browning for a well-reasoned and comprehensive but concise discussion of the Board's jurisdiction to adjudicate the terms and enforceability of a settlement agreement.  This is a Chris Baum "cherishable" [yep, that's my new name for those] and it stands for the proposition that no, the claimant does not have the right to choose her own forum and yes, the Board has the jurisdiction to determine whether there is a legally binding commutation.   The Board did agree with claimant on the argument that final resolution of this issue could not occur via Legal Hearing and would require consideration of witnesses and evidence.

I think the real value in this case is it is one of those where the proposition is so obvious that perhaps it did not exist heretofore in writing.  I did not check my drawer to see what all is in there on this topic already.....but like the ornaments on a Christmas tree, can you have too many when they are Swarovski crystal?

And I think Ms. Browning ought to stick to poetry.

Holiday regards to one and all,
Cassandra Roberts

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