ILNews

Court affirms worker's comp dismissal

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a Full Worker's Compensation Board of Indiana decision to dismiss a claim against a former employer, citing statutory conditions have been met to release the employer from any liability.

In William Pete Casper v. L.E. Isley & Sons, Inc., No. 93A02-0702-EX-179, Casper's wife, Janet, on behalf of William's estate, appealed the dismissal of the estate's claim against L.E. Isley for worker's compensation. Janet Casper argued the dismissal was premature.

William Casper worked for Isley for more than 40 years, until he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, which results from exposure to asbestos. On March 1, 2005, William filed an application for adjustment of claim with the board, and on March 7, he filed suit in Marion Superior Court against multiple defendants he alleged were responsible for his exposure. William died Oct. 26, 2006.

His estate settled with some defendants in November and filed a motion for a finding of bad faith with the compensation board on the part of Isley and its insurance. Isley filed a motion to dismiss the claim.

During a single-member hearing in May 2006, the member found the estate had settled with some defendants for an unknown amount, but the amount is in excess of any potential liability Isley would have in this matter. The estate also has multiple claims it may be able to assert in the future against defendants now in bankruptcy court. Isley never paid William or the estate compensation as a result of the alleged disease caused by Isley.

After reviewing these facts, a hearing judge issued an order to dismiss the claim against Isley. The full board affirmed the single hearing member's decision.

The Court of Appeals ruled that although the Occupational Disease Act in Indiana Code 22-3-7-36(b) allows employees to seek worker's compensation benefits and recovery from third parties, it generally prohibits an employee from "double recovery."

The statute states if an employee hasn't received compensation or medical services, the employee "shall procure a judgment against such other party" for disablement or death from an occupational disease, and if a judgment is paid or settlement made, then the "employer or such employer's occupational disease insurance carrier shall have no liability for payment of compensation."

The estate has settled with some third party defendants for an amount of money higher than any potential liability Isley would have. Statutory conditions have been met to release Isley of any liability for payment of compensation and the board's dismissal of the estate's claim was not premature, the court found.
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