COA affirms worker's comp benefits

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Court of Appeals affirmed an injured dancer is entitled to worker's compensation benefits and remanded with instructions to the Full Worker's Compensation Board to determine if she is eligible for double compensation and attorney fees because her company did not have worker's compensation insurance at the time of her injury.

In Wholesaler's Inc. d/b/a Shangri-La v. Angela Hobson, 93A02-0702-EX-173, Hobson worked as a dancer at Shangri-La in Fort Wayne. She injured herself Dec. 20, 2001, while performing a pole trick on stage and felt a pull in her neck. Hobson informed the manager after leaving the stage of her injury and went to a chiropractor a week later after experiencing continuous pain and numbness. After nearly a month of pain, Hobson had surgery to correct a herniated disc in her cervical spine.

Hobson filed an application for an adjustment of her claim with the Indiana Worker's Compensation Board in October 2003. After a hearing, she was awarded temporary total disability benefits and compensation for eight degrees of permanent impairment. At the time of her injury, Shangri-La did not have worker's compensation insurance.

Shangri-La appealed the board's decision, arguing there is insufficient evidence to support the award to Hobson, and its witnesses testified Hobson did not notify her co-workers of her injury or appear injured. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment in favor of Hobson, stating it was for the board to decide who was more believable.

Hobson is seeking appellate attorney fees, a 10 percent increase in her award pursuant to I.C. 22-3-4-8(f), and double the compensation and attorney fees because of Shangri-La's violation of Indiana law in not having worker's compensation insurance.

In order for Hobson to be entitled to that, Shangri-La's appeal must be frivolous or in bad faith. The Court of Appeals found that Shangri-La exhibited neither substantive nor procedural bad faith in its appeal. Even though there has been a delay in Hobson receiving her benefits, the time between an injury and determination on appeal is typically five years, which the court decided did not merit a 10 percent increase. The Court of Appeals did find she is entitled to a 5 percent increase in her award as provided by I.C. 22-3-4-8.

Pursuant to I.C. 22-3-4-13(f), Hobson may be entitled to double compensation and attorney fees. Because there's already been a four- to six-year delay in her receipt of benefits, the court remanded with instructions that the board determine whether Hobson is entitled to double compensation and attorney fees and to have Shangri-La make immediate payment for the full amount of the award to Hobson, including the 5 percent increase.

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