Loyd v. Michelin N. Am., Inc.

Decision Date26 April 2016
Docket NumberNo. 112,754.,112,754.
Citation2016 OK 46,371 P.3d 488
Parties James LOYD, Petitioner v. MICHELIN NORTH AMERICA, INC., and The Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims, Respondents.
CourtOklahoma Supreme Court

David Custar, Richard A. Bell, The Bell Law Firm, Norman, Oklahoma, for Petitioner.

Connie M. Wolfe, Connie M. Wolfe & Associates, PLLC, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Respondents.

GURICH

, J.

Facts & Procedural History

¶ 1 Loyd was employed by Michelin North America for thirty years. On November 10, 2009, Loyd suffered injuries to his head

, neck, back, right shoulder, right hip, and right knee after being thrown into a steel cage by a 500–800 pound roll of fabric. At the time of his injury, he was working as a wind-up operator for a “fabric calender”1 and was attempting to repair a broken bolt of fabric. Loyd reported the incident to his Employer.

¶ 2 On November 20, 2009, Loyd was again attempting to repair a broken bolt of fabric when his left ankle gave out and he injured his left hand, left knee, left shoulder, and left ankle.2 On December 21, 2009, Loyd filed a Form 3 for his injuries from the November 10, 2009 incident, and he filed an amended Form 3 on January 20, 2010, to add the injuries suffered in the November 20, 2009 incident. An Order Determining Compensability and Awarding Temporary Total Disability Benefits was entered on May 20, 2010. From December of 2010 to October of 2012, Loyd had surgery on both shoulders, his back, both knees, and left ankle.

¶ 3 On May 16, 2013, Loyd filed a Form 9, requesting the following issues be set for trial: “Temporary disability from 11–24–09 to 5–6–13; Medical Treatment from 11–9–09 to Indefinite; Permanent Partial Disability/Permanent Partial Impairment; Cont. Medical Treatment; Disfigurement; Pain Management Specialist; Prescriptions; Should be allowed to remain under the care of Dr. Johnsen and Pam Holt for depression; Commute.”3 A hearing was held on November 26, 2013. The transcript from such hearing was not included in the record on appeal. On December 20, 2013, the trial court entered an Order Awarding the Nature and Extent of Permanent Partial Disability Benefits and Disfigurement. The order did not reserve any issues for future hearing and made no mention of continuing medical treatment, prescriptions, or commutation. Loyd did not appeal the order.

¶ 4 On January 15, 2014, just twenty-six days later, Loyd filed a Form 9, seeking to set for trial the issues of continuing medical maintenance and commuting a portion of his permanent partial disability award to a lump sum. Employer filed an Answer, alleging res judicata and claim preclusion as an affirmative defense. The court held a hearing on March 24, 2014, and filed an Order on March 25, 2014, denying Loyd's request for continuing medical maintenance and Loyd's request to commute.4 The court found that the prior permanent partial disability order of December 20, 2013, had become final, and thus, the court lacked jurisdiction to grant Loyd's requests. Loyd appealed, and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. Loyd petitioned this Court for certiorari review, and we granted review on March 30, 2015.

Standard of Review

¶ 5 The issues presented in this case concern the jurisdiction of the Workers' Compensation Court to hear and determine Loyd's request for continuing medical maintenance as well as Loyd's request to commute a portion of his permanent partial disability award to a lump sum payment. Such jurisdictional issues are reviewed de novo. See Triad Transport, Inc. v. Wynne, 2012 OK 30, ¶ 7, 276 P.3d 1013, 1016

. Under a de novo standard of review, this Court is afforded “plenary, independent, and non-deferential authority to examine the issues presented.” Benefiel v. Boulton, 2015 OK 32, ¶ 10, 350 P.3d 138, 142 (internal quotation omitted).

Loyd's Request to Commute a Portion of His Permanent Partial Disability Award to a Lump Sum
¶ 6 Section 41(A) of Title 85

provides:

A. Awards for permanent partial disability under Section 22 of this title shall be made for the total number of weeks of compensation which the Court shall find the claimant will be entitled to receive, less any sums previously paid which the Court may find to be a proper credit thereon. When the award becomes final, the whole sum or any unpaid portion thereof shall operate as a final adjudicated obligation and payment thereof may be enforced by the claimant or in case of his death, by the surviving beneficiary entitled to the proceeds as provided in Section 48 of this title. All awards shall be paid by periodic installments as determined by the Court. Whenever an injured person receives an award for permanent partial disability, permanent total disability or death benefits, the injured employee or claimant, for good cause shown, may have the award commuted to a lump-sum payment by permission of the Court. This authorization for commutation shall not be applicable to attorney fees in permanent total disability cases. The lump-sum payment shall not exceed Four Thousand Dollars ($4,000.00) or twenty-five percent (25%) of the total award, whichever is the larger sum....5

¶ 7 This Court has not previously addressed whether a claimant must seek to commute a permanent partial disability award at the hearing on permanent partial disability, as the Employer in this case argues, or whether the claimant may seek to commute the award at a later date. In Lee Way Motor Freight, Inc. v. Wilson, 1980 OK 48, 609 P.2d 777

, the claimant was awarded permanent partial disability benefits in September of 1978. In January of 1979, claimant sought to commute the balance of his award to a lump sum. Although the issue on appeal in Wilson was whether a later-enacted statute limited the amount of the award that could be commuted, the Court did not express concern or even mention that claimant's motion was pressed after the hearing on permanent partial disability. Similarly, in Bagley v. Big “E” Industries, 1989 OK CIV APP 34, 776 P.2d 569, the claimant was awarded permanent partial disability benefits in August of 1987. In September of 1987 he moved to commute his award to lump sum payment. Again, although the issue on appeal was whether the trial court could direct payment of the lump sum to claimant's ex-wife to satisfy back child support, the Court of Civil Appeals did not express concern that claimant's motion was filed after the hearing on permanent partial disability.

¶ 8 Although Wilson and Bagley do not directly address the issue in the case before us, we find such cases consistent with the language of § 41(A)

and conclude that a claimant may seek to commute his or her permanent partial disability award after the hearing on permanent partial disability. Section 41(A) provides that [w]henever an injured person receives an award for permanent partial disability ... the injured employee or claimant, for good cause shown, may have the award commuted to a lump-sum payment by permission of the Court.”6 Such emphasized language implies that the court has already issued an order awarding permanent partial disability benefits. Thus, a claimant would necessarily have to seek to commute the award after receiving the order awarding permanent partial disability benefits. In addition, the statutory language only allows the court to commute a portion of the award “for good cause shown.”7 A claimant, at the time of the hearing on permanent partial disability, may or may not have a specific financial hardship or “good cause” to seek payment of the award in a lump sum. However, such financial need could arise at a later date, requiring the claimant to seek to commute the award after such award has been made.

¶ 9 In the case before us, although Loyd testified to his financial situation regarding his request to commute a portion of his award to a lump sum payment, the trial court made no ruling on the issue. Instead, the trial court found it lacked jurisdiction to even hear the issue. On remand, the court shall determine whether Loyd has shown good cause, entitling him to have a portion of his permanent partial disability award commuted to a lump-sum payment.

Loyd's Request for Continuing Medical Maintenance

¶ 10 In the case before us, although continuing medical maintenance was listed on Loyd's Form 9, the transcript of the hearing on permanent partial disability held on November 26, 2013, is not part of the appellate record. Employer's brief states that Claimant did not ‘expressly ask’ for Continued Medical Maintenance at the November 23, 2013 hearing,”8 and Loyd specifically states in his brief that the trial court was not called upon in the [November] 2013 hearing to address [his] need for continuing medical maintenance.”9 The court's order awarding permanent partial disability did not address continuing medical maintenance. Although Loyd had the opportunity to appeal the order to seek a correction or ruling on the issue, he did not appeal and the order became final.

¶ 11 In Pitchford v. Jim Powell Dozer, Inc., 2000 OK 12, 996 P.2d 935

, the claimant was injured on the job and received an award of permanent partial disability benefits. Approximately four years later, claimant sought to reopen the case based on change of condition, and the trial court found that claimant had sustained a change of condition for the worse and awarded additional permanent partial disability benefits. At the hearing that resulted in the awarding of additional permanent partial disability benefits, claimant did not request reservation of continuing medical maintenance, and the order of the court did not address or reserve for future hearing the issue of continuing medical maintenance. Claimant did not appeal the order. Two years later, claimant sought reimbursement for prescription medications purchased after the order awarding additional permanent partial disability benefits. Claimant argued that the prescriptions were specifically for the maintenance of the previously adjudicated change in condition.

¶ 12...

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