Smith v. State Workmen's Compensation Com'r

Decision Date04 November 1975
Docket NumberNo. 13576,13576
Citation219 S.E.2d 361,159 W.Va. 108
CourtWest Virginia Supreme Court
PartiesCarl W. SMITH, Sr. v. STATE WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION COMMISSIONER and Eastern Associated Coal Corporation.

Syllabus by the Court

1. The primary object in construing a statute is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the Legislature.

2. In ascertaining legislative intent, effect must be given to each part of the statute and to the statute as a whole so as to accomplish the general purpose of the legislation.

3. Statutes which relate to the same subject matter should be read and applied together so that the Legislature's intention can be gathered from the whole of the enactments.

4. 'That which is necessarily implied in a statute, or must be included in it in order to make the terms actually used have effect, according to their nature and ordinary meaning, is as much a part of it as if it had been declared in express terms.' Syllabus point 14., State v. Harden, 62 W.Va. 313, 58 S.E. 715 (1907).

5. The monetary limitation on charges assessable to the Workmen's Compensation Fund for medical treatment rendered to injured employees established by W.Va.Code 1931, 23--4--3(a), as amended, applies to injured employees of general subscribers of the Fund, and does not apply to injured employees of self-insured employers.

6. W.Va.Code 1931, 23--2--9, as amended, authorizes self-insured employers to participate in the Surplus Fund established by W.Va.Code 1931, 23--3--1, as amended, for the purpose of insuring against two specific hazards, catastrophes and second injuries.

7. The State Workmen's Compensation Commissioner may exercise not only the powers expressly granted the office by statute, but also such additional powers of a procedural or administrative nature as are reasonably implied as a necessary incident to the expressed powers of the office.

8. 'Where a statute is of doubtful meaning, the contemporaneous construction placed thereon by the officers of government charged with its execution is entitled to great weight, and will not be disregarded or overthrown unless it is clear that such construction is erroneous.' Syllabus point 7., Evans v. Hutchinson, W.Va., 214 S.E.2d 453 (1975).

9. W.Va.Code 1931, 23--2--9, 23--3--1, and 23--4--3, as amended respectively, read in Pari materia, authorize the State Workmen's Compensation Commissioner to establish an unlimited medical expense fund for treatment of injured employees of general subscribers to the Workmen's Compensation Fund and to allocate medical treatment charges in excess of statutory limitation against available monies deposited in the Surplus Fund.

10. Under W.Va.Code 1931, 23--2--9, as amended, the State Workmen's Compensation Commissioner is authorized to require that self-insured employers insure payment for all necessary medical treatment rendered to their injured employees incident to a compensable claim to the same extent provided all other covered employees by the Workmen's Compensation Act.

11. W.Va.Code 1931, 23--5--1, as amended, accords all employers subject to the Workmen's Compensation Act, including self-insurers aggrieved by a ruling of the Workmen's Compensation Commissioner, due process and equal protection of the law.

Michael R. Crane and Norman T. Farley, Legal Division, Charleston, for appellant State Workmen's Compensation Commissioner.

Shaffer, Theibert & Ikner, R. L. Theibert, Madison, for appellee Eastern Associated.

HADEN, Chief Justice:

This is an appeal by the Workmen's Compensation Commissioner from a final order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board which held, in reversing the Commissioner, that the Commissioner could not require Eastern Associated Coal Corporation, a self-insured employer, to pay medical bills for the benefit of its injured employee, Carol W. Smith, Sr., in excess of a $3,000.00 statutory limit in effect as of the date of the injury. 1

On December 1, 1967, Mr. Smith suffered a severe fractured leg in the course of and resulting from his employment. Subsequent complications required that his leg be amputated five and one-half inches below the knee. Thereafter, in 1970, the injured claimant was granted a total permanent disability award. The total cost of medical care incurred by reason of the work-related injury amounted to $11,724.22. This amount was billed to the employer by the Commissioner and was promptly paid although the employer filed a timely protest to the issuance of additional pay orders amounting to $5,748.65. In its protest, the employer contended that W.Va.Code 1931, 23--4--3, as amended, exempts all employers from liability for medical expenses beyond $3,000.00. The employer also made a demand on the Commissioner for reimbursement of $8,724.22, the total amount it had paid out in excess of the statutory limit.

After conducting hearings on the protest, the Commissioner affirmed his ruling directing issuances of the pay orders and denied the employer's claim for reimbursement. Upon appeal to the Board, that body reversed the decision of the Commissioner and held that the employer could not be required to honor pay orders for extraordinary medical expenses incident to Smith's claim in excess of $3,000.00. The Board, however, held that the employer was not entitled to reimbursement from the Workmen's Compensation Fund for excess payments already made. Eastern did not appeal that ruling to this Court.

There are no factual disputes in this case. The sole dispositive issue in this appeal is whether the Commissioner has authority to direct a self-insurer to pay medical expenses in excess of the $3,000.00 limit prescribed in W.Va.Code 1931, 23--4--3, as amended. For reasons which shall appear, this Court is of the opinion that the Workmen's Compensation Commissioner does possess such authority.

The injury involved in this claim occurred on December 1, 1967. The statutes governing the rights and duties of the employer and claimant and the powers and responsibilities of the Commissioner are those that were in effect on the date of the injury. Pertee v. State Workmen's Compensation Commissioner, W.Va., 197 S.E.2d 318, 320 (1973); Ball v. Workmen's Compensation Commissioner, W.Va., 194 S.E.2d 229, 230 (1973).

In 1967, W.Va.Code 1931, 23--2--1 and 23--2--5, as amended, required all employers, including Eastern Associated Coal Corporation, to pay quarterly premiums, based upon the percentage of the payroll of each employer, for the purpose of creating a Workmen's Compensation Fund. W.Va.Code 1931, 23--2--9, as amended, however, provided an exception to this general requirement. It stated Inter alia:

'(E)mployers subject to this chapter who are of sufficient financial responsibility to insure the payment of compensation to injured employees and the dependents of fatally injured employees, Whether in the form of pecuniary compensation or medical attention, funeral expenses or otherwise as herein provided, of the value at least equal to the compensation provided in this chapter, or employers of such financial responsibility who maintain their own benefit funds, or system of compensation, to which their employees are not required or permitted to contribute, . . . may, upon a finding of such facts by the compensation commissioner, Elect to pay individually and directly, or from such benefit funds, department or association, Such compensation and expenses to injured employees or fatally injured employees' dependents.' (Emphasis supplied).

Eastern Associated Coal Corporation elected to become a self-insurer under this statute. As a self-insurer, Eastern was required to pay into the Workmen's Compensation Fund under W.Va.Code 1931, 23--2--9, as amended, 'a sum sufficient to pay his proper proportion of the expenses of the administration of this chapter, as may be determined by the commissioner.' It was not required, however, to pay the quarterly premiums into the general Workmen's Compensation Fund under W.Va.Code 1931, 23--2--5, as amended, since it was to insure, on its own, 'pecuniary compensation,' 'medical attention,' etc.

In addition to paying the mandatory fee for administrative costs, Eastern made payments into what is called the surplus fund to insure it against two specific hazards, catastrophes and second injuries. W.Va.Code 1931, 23--2--9, as amended, which permits self-insurers to participate in these two limited financial arrangements, provides in part:

'All employers who have heretofore elected, or shall hereafter elect, to pay compensation and expenses directly as provided in this section, shall, unless they give the catastrophe and second injury security or bond hereinafter provided for, pay into the surplus fund referred to in section one, article three of this chapter upon the same basis and in the same percentages, Subject to the limitations herein set forth, as funds are set aside for the maintenance of the surplus fund out of payments made by premium-paying subscribers, such payments to be made at the same time as hereinbefore provided with respect to payment of proportion of expenses of administration. In case there be a catastrophe or second injury, as defined in section one, article three of this chapter, to the employees of any employer making such payments, the employer shall not be liable to pay compensation or expenses arising from or necessitated by the catastrophe or second injury, and such compensation and expenses shall not be charged against such employer, but such compensation and expenses shall be paid from the surplus fund in the same manner and to the same extent as in the case of premium-paying subscribers.' (Emphasis supplied).

A similar provision exists with respect to general subscribers. W.Va.Code 1931, 23--3--1, as amended, provides in pertinent part 'Ten percent of all that shall hereafter be paid into the workmen's compensation fund by subscribers not electing to carry their own risk under section nine, article two of...

To continue reading

Request your trial
406 cases
  • Pack v. Van Meter
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • October 29, 1986
    ... ...         1. "The amount of compensation received for injury or death from the Workmen's ... the whole of the enactments." Syllabus Point 3, Smith v. State Workmen's Compensation Commissioner, W.Va. , 219 ... ...
  • DeVane v. Kennedy
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • March 26, 1999
    ... ... the financial burden [borne] by citizens of this State when their insurance carrier[s] cannot fully satisfy their ... See Syl. pt. 7, in part, Smith v. Monongahela Power Co., 189 W.Va. 237, 429 S.E.2d 643 ... State Workmen's Compensation Commissioner, 159 W.Va. 108, 219 S.E.2d 361 (1975) ." Syl ... ...
  • Dieter Engineering Services, Inc. v. Parkland Development, Inc.
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • December 16, 1996
    ... ... Pt. 1, Smith v. State Workmen's Compensation Comm., 159 W.Va. 108, 219 ... ...
  • State ex rel. Hechler v. Christian Action Network
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • July 16, 1997
    ... ... give effect to the intent of the Legislature.' Syllabus Point 1, Smith v. State Workmen's Compensation Commissioner, 159 W.Va. 108, 219 S.E.2d ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT