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Worker’s Compensation Act doesn’t give board ability to decide contract construction issue

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The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that a Hamilton Superior Judge erred in granting an injured worker’s motion to dismiss a company’s action on whether it was liable to pay workers’ compensation to the injured man, who worked for another company.

Hood’s Gardens entered into a contract with D&E Tree Extraction to have a tree removed for $600. D&E would also haul the wood and debris away and keep the wood. D&E sent Jason Young to remove part of the tree. He was severely injured in the process and rendered a paraplegic. Young’s attorney made a demand that Hood’s Gardens pay workers’ compensation benefits to Young.

HG knew it could be liable under Indiana Code 22-3-2-14(b) because it didn’t check whether D&E had proper insurance, but HG believed the statute didn’t apply because the contract was only for $600. The statute holds a company liable for work exceeding $1,000.

Young argued that the value of the wood hauled away was at least $400, making HG liable. HG filed a complaint for declaratory judgment on the matter, and it later filed a motion for summary judgment. Young sought to have the declaratory judgment dismissed because he argued the worker’s compensation board had exclusive jurisdiction to hear the issues raised by HG. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss.

In Hood's Gardens, Inc. v. Jason Young, Craig Mead d/b/a Discount Tree Excavation a/k/a D & E Tree Extraction, 29A04-1201-PL-8, the appellate court ruled the Declaratory Judgment Act is the appropriate vehicle for resolving the issue raised by HG in its complaint. The issuance of a declaratory judgment serves the useful purpose of determining whether the value of the contract between D&E and HG is a statutory basis for changing HG’s legal status, Senior Judge Carr Darden wrote.

The exclusivity provisions of the Worker’s Compensation Act didn’t give the board exclusive jurisdiction to decide the simple contract construction issue, he wrote. The judges reversed the motion to dismiss and remanded for further proceedings.

 

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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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