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. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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