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. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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