Robert Charest v. Hydraulic Hose & Assemblies, LLC
March 30, 2021
CategoriesStatute of Limitations Statutory Construction Coordination of Benefits Coordination of Benefits Statute of Limitations Statutory Construction
Summary from the Troubh Heisler Attorneys
Charest sustained a low back injury on April 27, 2001 and a hernia injury on May 17, 2001 while working for Hydraulic. He began to receive Social Security Old Age benefit payments in 2003. A 2006 decree found that both injuries were compensable and awarded ongoing partial incapacity benefits at 35%. Following a weekly partial benefit payment on April 11, 2006, Hanover Insurance coordinated the Social Security Old Age benefits as allowed under 39-A M.R.S.A. 221(3)(A)(1) and made no additional payments because the entire amount of the ongoing workers compensation payments were offset by the Social Security benefits. No Discontinuance was filed.
On May 1, 2017 Charest filed a petition for review claiming he was entitled to total incapacity benefits. Hydraulic raised the statute of limitations defense. Sec. 306(2) provides that if the employer or insurer pays benefits within 2 years after the date of injury or the employer’s required First Report of Injury, a party has 6 years from the date of the most recent payment to file a petition. Charest argued that the statute of limitations had not expired because workers’ compensation payments were ongoing even if they were fully offset, and the receipt of the Social Security benefits in these circumstances served to toll the statute. The ALJ concluded that the receipt of Social Security Old Age benefits did not toll the 6 year statute of limitations, and the Appellate Division affirmed.
The Law Court vacated the Appellate Division decision. 39-A M.R.S.A. Sec. 221(3)(E) provides in part that disability insurance benefit payments under the Social Security Act are considered payments from funds provided by the employer and “are considered primary payments on the employer’s obligation under section 212 or 213 as old-age benefit payments under the Social Security Act are considered pursuant to this section.” Relying on this language the Court held that Social Security Old Age benefit payments must be considered primary payments of workers’ compensation under the Act. Accordingly, for application of Sec. 306(2), “the date of the most recent payment” is the date of the most recent offsetting old-age Social Security benefit payment. The statute of limitations was tolled.