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Court rules on workers' comp dispute

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a finding that a company had acted in bad faith in denying workers' compensation benefits because there was a dispute over who should pay the benefits. The appellate court also encouraged employers to come to an early agreement to share treatment costs pending a liability determination to avoid a situation similar to the one in the instant case.

In Ag-One Co-Op and Trane v. James Andrew Scott, No. 93A02-0904-EX-298, James Andrew Scott, a former Trane employee who went to work for Ag-One, went without medical care or compensation from June 2004 until September 2006 because Trane and Ag-One Co-Op disputed who was responsible for his medical expenses. Scott hurt his shoulder in September 2002 while working for Trane and received workers' compensation benefits. He worked for Ag-One from March to May in 2004 and re-aggravated his shoulder injury. Scott filed an application for adjustment of claim against Trane; Trane asked that Ag-One be brought on as a party because it believed the company was liable for part of Scott's injuries.

In early 2006, a single hearing member of the Indiana Worker's Compensation Board and the full board found Trane, not Ag-One, to be responsible for Scott's medical care and expenses. The full board also allowed Scott 45 days to file a claim against Ag-One, which he did, alleging bad faith. The full board affirmed the single hearing member's decision that Ag-One acted in bad faith and should pay half the $5,000 in damages and $1,600 in attorney's fees.

The Court of Appeals found Borgman v. Sugar Creek Animal Hospital, 782 N.E.2d 993 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002), to be instructive in its finding that that there can be no bad faith in denying benefits if the employer didn't act improperly in denying benefits, wrote Judge Paul Mathias.

"While we share the Board's concern that Scott went without medical care while Trane and Ag-One disputed who was liable for Scott's worker's compensation benefits, we fail to see how Ag-One can be said to have acted in bad faith in denying Scott's claim for benefits when Ag-One was ultimately found not to be liable for such benefits," he wrote.

The appellate court cautioned that its decision shouldn't be interpreted as encouragement for multiple employers in disputes over liability to refuse payment while awaiting the Indiana Worker's Compensation Board's decision. It understood the board's frustration with Trane and Ag-One in refusing to cover Scott's benefits while awaiting the board's decision, and noted that if they had both paid something during the dispute, the company found not liable could be reimbursed from the other employer. The appellate court ordered the decision reversed and vacated.

"We encourage employers in like situations in the future to come to an early agreement to share treatment costs pending determination of which employer is fully or partially liable. Doing so could go far in facilitating settlement of the claim and will avoid liability for the type of bad faith determined by the Board in this case, a determination that will usually be upheld under our deferential standard of review," Judge Mathias wrote.

Judge Margret Robb concurred and wrote in a separate opinion in addition to vacating the order Ag-One pay damages to Scott, the board should enter an order determining Trane's responsibility for the entire $5,000 as bad faith damages.

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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