Matthews v. Shaw's Supermarkets & Emery Waterhouse
October 2, 2015
CategoriesReopening Evidence Reopening Evidence Statute of Limitations
Multiple Injuries Multiple Employers Reopening Evidence Statute of Limitations
Summary from the Troubh Heisler Attorneys
This case has a complicated procedural background related to injuries sustained at Shaw’s (injuries in ‘90s) and one injury at Emery Waterhouse (injury 2005). In 2007, Judge Stovall issued a decree ruling that Mr. Matthews claims for four injuries from ’92-’94 were not barred by the statute of limitations. After a multi-day hearing the judge issued a decree on the merits in May of 2010, granting Matthews’ Petition for Restoration and Petition for Payment of Medical and Related Services for his June 1992 Shaw’s injury, and granting his Petition for Payment of Medical and Related Services for the three other 90s Shaw’s injuries. The judge denied the Petition for Award related to the 2005 Emery Waterhouse date of injury.
Matthews filed a Petition to Reopen the May 2010 decree seeking to introduce evidence of his April 2010 total knee replacement surgery, which occurred after the hearing. The petition was granted over objections from Shaw’s and Emery Waterhouse, the later claiming that the May 2010 decree established no injury had occurred in 2005 and therefore it should no longer be involved in this litigation. The judge received the evidence and issued a new decree in January of 2012 that rescinded the May 2010 decree. The new decree was largely the same as the old decree. The exception being that the new decree granted Matthews’s Petition for Award related to the 2005 Emery Waterhouse injury.
Further proceedings were held. Ultimately, Emery Waterhouse appealed, arguing the judge exceeded the scope of the Petition to Reopen when he reversed himself and found a 2005 injury. Shaw’s appealed the decision for: (1) determining the 1992 claims were not barred by the statute of limitations; (2) concluding Matthews’s ongoing incapacity resulted from the 1992 injury; and, (3) awarding partial incapacity benefits at varying rates.
The panel denied Emery Waterhouse’s appeal and affirmed Judge Stovall. When addressing an appeal from a decision on a Petition to Reopen, the panel looks to see whether “in light of all the circumstances, the hearing officer acted beyond the scope of his allowable discretion” and will vacate the hearing officer’s decision if “the proceedings were fundamentally unfair.” Section 319 authorizes reopening a decree based upon newly discovered evidence. In this case, the evidence was limited to knee replacement surgery and the parties were aware a new decree could be issued. The panel rejected arguments that the evidence was not newly discovered and that it did not support his decision.
With respect to Shaw’s issues on appeal, the panel held that Shaw’s waived any statute of limitations defense when it failed to raise the defense from 1995 to 1999, when litigation related to the June 1992 injury first occurred, including a 1999 Motion for Award of Fees and Disbursements that was granted. The fact that the current claims and the initial claims were administered by different third-party administrators did not matter here. Finally, the court found competent evidence supporting that the 1992 injury contributes to the ongoing knee issue and that Matthews’ inconsistent earnings during the relevant period supported awarding benefits at varying rates.