Federal Mut. Ins. Co. v. Carpenter

Decision Date11 November 1963
Docket NumberNo. 2,No. 49874,49874,2
Citation371 S.W.2d 955
PartiesFEDERAL MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Milton CARPENTER, Successor of Mount Etna Morris, as State Treasurer of Missouri, Defendant-Appellant
CourtMissouri Supreme Court

Thomas F. Eagleton, Atty. Gen., Jefferson City, Benjamin J. Francka, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., Springfield, for defendant-appellant.

Glenn A. Burkart, Mann, Walter, Powell, Burkart & Weathers, Springfield, for respondent.

BARRETT, Commissioner.

This action for a declaratory judgment arose in these circumstances: In September 1956, Paddy Miles was employed by Lloyd Brooks, an employer subject to the workmen's compensation law. Brooks' liability under the law was insured in the plaintiff's predecessor American Farmers Mutual Insurance Company. On September 11, 1956, Paddy sustained an accidental injury arising out of and in the course of his employment by Brooks and in November 1957 a referee of the Division of Workmen's Compensation made separate 'Findings of Fact' and an 'Award on Hearing.' In his findings of fact the referee found as stated, that Paddy had sustained a compensable accidental injury while working for Brooks. The referee further found that Paddy had sustained 'a prior disability to the exent of fifty (50) per cent to the body as a whole' and that by reason of the accidental injury of September 'together with the prior disability, the employee is permanently and totally disabled.' Therefore, under the provisions of the workmen's compensation law, being totally and permanently disabled, Paddy was entitled to compensation benefits of 66 2/3% of his average weekly earnings for 300 weeks and thereafter to 40% of his average weekly earnings for life. RSMo 1959, Sec. 287.200, V.A.M.S. And '(i)n addition to all other compensation' he was entitled to have medical, surgical and hospital treatment furnished. RSMo 1959, Sec. 287.140, V.A.M.S. Since the referee found that Paddy had suffered a prior disability to the extent of 50% of the body as a whole and that his September 1956 injury rendered him totally and permanently disabled, the referee awarded him 200 weeks' compensation at $35 a week from his employer and $35 a week for 100 weeks from the second injury fund and thereafter $17.60 a week for the remainder of his life also from the second injury fund. RSMo 1959, Secs. 287.200, 287.220, V.A. M.S. As to medical, surgical and hospital treatment the referee, partially in the language of the statute, made this finding of fact and ruling of law: 'The employer and insurer shall provide employee with such medical, surgical and hospital treatment as may be necessary to cure and relieve him from the effects of his injuries.' RSMo 1959, Sec. 287.140 V.A.M.S. These are the only facts in the record as to Paddy's employment, injuries, claim for compensation and the award by the referee.

In this action for a declaratory judgment instituted in August 1960 by Brooks' compensation insurer these additional facts appear: Brooks' insurer has paid Paddy 200 weeks' compensation at $35 a week and during that period has furnished the necessary medical attention. It is now asserted that as to future medical payments the referee's award is ambiguous, that the State Treasurer as custodian of the second injury fund asserts that the plaintiff, Brooks' insurer, is obligated to furnish Paddy's necessary future medical treatment. On the other hand, the employer's insurer asserts that in addition to the second injury fund's payments of 66 2/3% of Paddy's weekly wages for 100 weeks and thereafter 40% of his wages for life, it is also obligated to pay his medical expense. As indicated, in these circumstances and because of the alleged ambiguity in the referee's award as to medical expense it is said that a justiciable controversy exists within the meaning of the declaratory judgment act.

Upon the hearing and submission of this the declaratory judgment action the circuit court found the facts as they have been outlined in this opinion. In addition the court found and concluded as a matter of law that in so far as the referee's award concerned medical expense it was ambiguous. The court then construed the applicable statutes and found that after its payment of compensation and medical expense for 200 weeks the employer's insurer was no longer obligated to pay medical expense. The court found and decreed therefore that after the expiration of the 200 weeks' compensation and medical expense the second injury fund was thereafter liable for all necessary future medical payments. It is from this final judgment in the declaratory judgment action that the State Treasurer of Missouri has appealed.

The parties have briefed and argued whether the referee's 1956 award with respect to medical treatment is ambiguous, whether, since there was no application for review or an appeal, his award became final and is therefore not subject to attack in this collateral proceeding. In support of these claims and the question of the circuit court's jurisdiction in this action the parties have cited lists of cases construing judgments and statutes, res judicata and kindred matters. It is not necessary however, to consider these auxiliary rules of construction, it is sufficient to say that the awards and findings of workmen's compensation referees are to be construed as a whole (100 C.J.S. Workmen's Compensation Secs. 636-637, pp. 935, 942), that their unappealed, unambiguous awards are res judicata and are not subject to collateral attack, as in a suit for declaratory relief. RSMo 1959, Sec. 287.490, V.A.M.S.; 100 C.J.S. Workmen's Compensation Secs. 655-659, pp. 982, 997; Crites v. Missouri Dry Dock & Repair Co., (Mo.App.) 348 S.W.2d 621. The problem here is not so much the adequacy or inadequacy of the referee's unappealed decision, had there been a bona fide complaint or lack of understanding on that score the parties undoubtedly would have availed themselves of the right of review and appeal. RSMo 1959, Secs. 287.480-287.490, V.A.M.S. The essence of this case is whether in view of the applicable statutes and the circumstances of this record the employer-insurer or the second injury fund is obligated to furnish Paddy's future medical and hospital treatment.

For their inferential bearing on the problem at hand it is well to note certain established general rules relating to the workmen's compensation law. In the absence of a special statute in some manner, for some specific reason, limiting or cutting down his liability the employer and his insurer are obligated by law to pay the totally and permanently injured employee the full compensation benefits of 66 2/3% of weekly wages for 300 weeks and 40% of weekly earnings 'for life.' RSMo 1959, Sec. 287.200, V.A.M.S. And this entire liability and this general rule is not affected by the...

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7 cases
  • Meilves v. Morris, 52702
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • 8 Enero 1968
    ...liable for the entire terminal condition of disability, under the circumstances provided for by the statute. Federal Mutual Ins. Co. v. Carpenter, Mo., 371 S.W.2d 955; 99 C.J.S. Workmen's Compensation § 298, p. 1047 et Aside from Wilhite, supra, the Missouri cases which have dealt with the ......
  • Lozier Corp. v. State, Second Injury Fund
    • United States
    • Nebraska Court of Appeals
    • 16 Marzo 1993
    ...medical, hospital, and psychiatric expenses. We are aided by the decision of the Missouri Supreme Court in Federal Mutual Insurance Company v. Carpenter, 371 S.W.2d 955 (Mo.1963). The issue was whether, in view of applicable statutes and the facts of the case, the employer or the second inj......
  • Treasurer of Mo. v. Parker
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • 14 Julio 2020
    ...the General Assembly reduces the Fund's liability, employers have more liability for an employee's injuries. See Fed. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Carpenter, 371 S.W.2d 955, 957 (Mo. 1963) ("[I]n the absence of an apportionment statute or second injury fund legislation, the employer is liable for the e......
  • Klecka v. Treasurer of Mo.
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • 22 Junio 2021
    ...the Fund is liable, not neither. Our Supreme Court described this core principle which remains binding today in Federal Mut. Ins. Co. v. Carpenter, 371 S.W.2d 955, 957 (Mo. 1963):[I]t is well to note certain established general rules relating to the workmen's compensation law. In the absenc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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