ILNews

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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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