ILNews

Third-party settlement ends fund liability

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Supreme Court held in a case of first impression in worker's compensation that when a settlement with a third-party ends an employer's liability, the liability of the Second Injury Fund will also be terminated. However, when the Indiana Worker's Compensation Board approves an agreement by the employer to continue paying worker's comp benefits after the settlement, the injured employee may make a claim to the Second Injury Fund.

In Ronald Mayes v. Second Injury Fund, No. 93S02-0802-EX-0107, Ronald Mayes appealed the Indiana Worker's Compensation Board's decision to deny his claim for entry into the Second Injury Fund on the basis of his confidential settlement with Federal Express, a third-party, after he was injured while working for Main Tech Corporation while on site at Fed Ex.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the board's decision, which ruled the settlement alleviated Main Tech from having to pay any further compensation and alleviated the Second Injury Fund from the need to pay. The fact Main Tech voluntarily agreed to continue to pay Mayes is outside the purview of the Indiana Worker's Compensation Act.

The Supreme Court overturned the board's decision because in the settlement between Mayes and Fed Ex, Main Tech voluntarily maintained its liability even though it would have been terminated under Indiana statute. The board approved this agreement and therefore approved a continuation of liability, wrote Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard.

"... (T)he Second Injury Fund's liability is derivative of the employer's liability. If the Board approves an agreement continuing an employer's liability despite third party settlement, it follows that the Second Injury Fund should also remain liable," he wrote.

If Main Tech and Mayes hadn't sought approval by the board, then Main Tech's payments to Mayes would have been outside the purview of the Indiana Worker's Compensation Act. The board could have refused to approve the agreement, but since it did not, Mayes' settlement with Fed Ex didn't terminate the Second Injury Fund's liability.

"In the future, if the Board is concerned about double recovery, it should refuse approval of agreements involving confidential settlements or insist that the agreement contain a provision releasing the Second Injury Fund from liability," the chief justice wrote.

The high court determined in general, under Indiana statute, the Second Injury Fund's liability is a derivative of the employer's liability, and as such, settlements with third parties preclude Second Injury Fund eligibility.

The Indiana General Assembly's decision to make explicit reference to Second Injury Fund benefits in its enactment on termination after a third-party settlement led the court to rule the legislators intended for the liability of the Second Injury Fund to be a derivative of the employer's liability.

The policy of Indiana Code Section 22-3-2-13 is to bar any worker's compensation, regardless of who pays it, in the event the employee gets money from a third-party settlement that is as much or more than the total amount of recoverable compensation, he wrote.
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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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