Justices: Act doesn't allow interest

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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Interest may not be calculated on workers' compensation benefits, including past-due medical bills, because Indiana legislation doesn't expressly allow for it, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled today.

In Christopher R. Brown, D.D.S., Inc. v. Decatur County Memorial Hospital, No. 93S02-0711-EX-561, Dr. Christopher Brown appealed the decision by the full Workers' Compensation Board that he was not entitled to interest on past-due medical bills incurred from his treatment of a patient who was receiving workers' compensation benefits from Decatur County Memorial Hospital.

Indiana's Workers' Compensation Act doesn't address whether interest may be awarded on past-due benefits, so the Supreme Court looked to other jurisdictions' decisions on the matter. Some courts have held no interest is assessable on deferred payments without express authority from the legislature; others relied on their state's general-interest statutes.

The high court decided because the workers' compensation system is uniquely legislative in nature, appellate courts should be hesitant to apply provisions not expressly included in the statutory scheme, wrote Justice Robert Rucker.

"In plain terms, there is nothing in the Act that could be read to authorize an award of interest. If a policy consideration suggests that interest on worker's compensation awards should be allowed, then the legislature and not the courts should implement such a policy," he wrote.

The denial of Brown's request for interest doesn't violate Article I, Section 23 of the Indiana Constitution, as Brown argued. There is nothing in the Workers' Compensation Act that prohibits Brown from negotiating with the hospital to include a provision in his contract to accept injured workers under the act and charge interest on past-due bills, wrote Justice Rucker.

"The different treatment accorded Dr. Brown is reasonably related to differences between healthcare providers who provide medical services to patients covered by the Act and those not so covered. As a result Dr. Brown has failed to support his claim that his Equal Privileges rights have been violated," he wrote.

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