Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Failure to preserve dependency status at hearing loses Schoemehl option

Carter v Treasurer of the State of MO.
WD 79437
Oct 25, 2016

Circuit court could not make new findings after it registered a judgment of PTD to award benefits to surviving spouse. 

A worker had an injury in 2005.  In 2009 the ALJ awarded PTD benefits against the second injury fund.  No benefits, contingent or otherwise, were awarded to the spouse.  No appeal was taken.  In 2014 the worker died from unrelated causes.  The commission denied a motion to substitute the surviving spouse as a party based on lack of jurisdiction because the award was final. 

She appealed and then sued in circuit court to enter the award as judgment and ask for an order to compel the fund to pay her lifetime benefits.  The court held an evidentiary hearing and based on additional facts it found dependency and contingency of benefits and ordered PTD benefits.

The fund argued as a matter of law the circuit court exceeded its authority under 287.500 to make additional findings as a basis to  substitute parties and order ongoing benefits.  The court found the circuit court had no discretion in entering a judgment and cannot determine any outstanding factual issues.  The court lacked authority to make additional findings to determine if the surviving spouse satisfied the Schoemehl contingencies. 
WD 77487
Oct. 25, 2016

The Commission lacked authority to make new findings of dependency after a final award when the issue was not preserved in the original hearing. 

On the same day, the court affirmed the Commission's refusal to substitute claimant as a party based on lack of jurisdiction.  The court found the commission lacked authority to allow substitution after a final award when dependency was not established in the original hearing.  

Claimant asserted her due process right were violated.  The court noted the statute allowed her to substitute herself as a party under  a change in circumstances.  That remedy was available only if she had established dependency status at the time of the hearing or by appealing the original award.

The court found other statutory exceptions to alter an award did not apply.