Tuesday, March 4, 2008

High Court Clarifies Statute of Limitations in Multiple Injury Claims

Section 43(B) of the Workers' Compensation Act places a 3-year limitation on awarding benefits "from the date of filing" a claim or "from the date of last payment of compensation or wages in lieu thereof." The limitation period was shortened from 5 years to 3 years in 1997.
Claimant in the case of Multiple Injury Trust Fund v. Wade, 2008 OK 15, __ P.3d __, received an order for 170 weeks of permanent partial disability on July 29, 1992. There was no further activity in the case until April 29, 2005, when the claimant filed a request for hearing on liability of the Fund.

The parties agreed that the 5 year limitation period applied. The Fund urged that claimant had five years from the July 29, 1992 order to request a hearing on his claim against the Fund under § 43(B) of the workers' compensation statutes. Claimant argued that he had no time restrictions on filing a Form 3-f to commence a claim against the Fund. Trial judge (Leonard) dismissed the claim as out of time; court en banc reversed; COCA affirmed the en banc panel; and the Supreme Court in effect reinstated the trial court order of dismissal.

Interestingly, both parties took positions that were rejected by the Supreme Court. Holding that § 43(B) applied, the Court held "[t]he events that mark the beginning of § 43(B)'s time period are the filing of the primary claim against the employer or the employer's last payment in the primary claim, whichever is later." [Emphasis added.] In this case the last payment was for PPD, but it is conceivable that a late medical payment might be the trigger.

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