Joel Hebert v. Twin Rivers Paper Co., LLC
August 2, 2022
Katherine Gatti Rooks
CategoriesProcedure Res Judicata Procedure Res Judicata
Summary from the Troubh Heisler Attorneys
Joel Hebert v. Twin Rivers Paper Co., LLC (attached)- The Appellate Division vacated a decision of the ALJ where the ALJ found a consent decree precluded Mr. Hebert from now arguing the scope of his work injury included right carpal tunnel syndrome. In Hebert v. Twin Rivers Paper Co.. Dec. No. 22-24 (attached), as of 2016 Mr. Herbert had undergone a left carpal tunnel release and been told he had right carpal tunnel syndrome. At that time the parties entered into an amended consent decree, signed by the ALJ, which provided Mr. Hebert experienced a work related injury of November 21, 2013 “in the form of a left carpal tunnel syndrome and chronic impingement syndrome in both shoulders with probable AC joint arthritis”.
In 2018 Mr. Hebert underwent right carpal tunnel surgery and filed a Petition for Award and Petition for Payment of Medical Service alleging the right carpal tunnel surgery was part of the November 21, 2013 injury. The ALJ issued a decision finding that the right carpal tunnel claim was barred because the parties had set the scope of the injury in the consent decree and it had not included right carpal tunnel syndrome.
The Appellate Division agreed with Mr. Hebert this was reversible error. In workers’ compensation cases res judicata “is read narrowly to preclude issues “actually litigated”. Citing the 1985 Law Court decision of Wacome v. Paul Mushero Const. Co., which held that an “approved agreement” establishing a foot injury did not preclude the employee from later claiming he had injured his back in the same incident, the Appellate Division found no distinction between the “approved agreement” in Wacome and the Herbert consent decree and therefore the consent decree did not establish the scope of the injury. To hold otherwise would require parties to litigate the fullest possible extent of claims even where the issues in dispute are discrete and resolution is possible.