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Industrial Indemnity Insurance Co. v. Ryan

Court of Workers Compensation of Montana

January 4, 1994

ROBERTA C. RYAN Respondent.


          Mike McCarter Judge

         The Court presently has under consideration a Motion For Summary Judgment filed by petitioner and numerous motions filed by the respondent. After reviewing each of the motions, the Court has determined that they should all be denied and that this case should be scheduled for trial.


         The petitioner, Industrial Indemnity Insurance Company (Industrial), is the insurer for respondent's former employer, Valley View Estates (Valley View). On August 25, 1986, the respondent, Roberta C. Ryan, suffered a work-related injury while working for Valley View. Industrial alleges that on April 3, 1987, respondent suffered a second, permanently disabling work-related injury. At that time, Valley View was insured by a different company, which ultimately settled with respondent. Industrial's petition seeks a determination that it is not responsible for any further medical or disability benefits. It alleges that respondent's disability and current medical condition are attributable to the second injury. Respondent, however, at various places denies any second injury and has demanded benefits from Industrial. She is now seeking an emergency lump sum advance.

         This case already has a long and convoluted procedural history. Respondent is appearing without an attorney. Her husband initially attempted to represent her but was properly barred from doing so by Court Order on August 6, 1993. On September 7, 1993, the undersigned replaced the Honorable Timothy W. Reardon as Judge of the Workers' Compensation Court. On November 3, 1993, it entered an Order disposing of various pro sé requests filed by respondent. At the same time, it issued an Order to Show Cause Why The Petition Should Not Be Dismissed. The Order took note of respondent's initial objection to Industrial's commencement of this proceeding, and requested the parties to address the appropriateness of the insurer initiating litigation requesting a factual determination that it is not liable for disability or medical benefits. Meanwhile, Industrial had filed a motion for summary judgment asking the Court to summarily absolve it of further liability to respondent.

         Respondent's response to the Order To Show Cause created uncertainty as to whether she still desired dismissal of this case, especially in light of her own requests for affirmative relief. Because of that uncertainty, on December 7, 1993, the Court issued an Order Directing Respondent To Clarify Position. Respondent's response, which was received on December 13, 1993, indicated her desire to pursue affirmative relief against Industrial, including a request for an emergency lump sum advance. She agreed that her requests for relief could be treated as a counter-petition. In light of the respondent's desire to go forward, on December 14, 1993, the Court then entered an Order Regarding Submission of Pending Motions. The Order directed the completion of briefing of the outstanding motions by December 29, 1993. The Court received an additional memorandum from respondent today, January 6, 1994. The motions are now ready for decision.

         1. Request For Emergency Lump Sum Advance

         On December 3, 1993, the respondent filed a request for an "emergency lump sum advance" and Holton award in excess of $18, 000. She further requested that an emergency telephone hearing be held to consider her request.

         A Holton award is based on an impairment rating. See Holton v. F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Co., 195 Mont. 263, 637 P.2d 10 (1981). There is no indication in the materials provided the Court that any impairment rating has been rendered with respect to the August 25, 1986 injury, and Dr. Ellis' letter of March 18, 1987, states "there will be no impairment rating of any significant disability from this condition." Presently there is no basis for directing Industrial to pay an impairment award.

         A lump sum is not available to respondent unless she prevails on the merits and establishes that she is due further disability benefits. The amount of any lump sum would also depend on the extent of liability for such benefits. Therefore, Industrial's liability, if any, must be determined first. The issues in this case are not susceptible to a telephone hearing. Moreover, it is doubtful that a trial on the merits could be held on an expedited basis. Respondent has not yet focused on the relevant issues in this case. The Court file is already thick with irrelevant argument and materials, as well as unfounded allegations. Sorting through respondent's myriad of allegations is difficult enough. To do so on an emergency basis would compound the Court's task. Respondent's request for an emergency hearing and for an emergency lump sum advance must therefore be denied.

         2. Respondent's Request For Sanctions And Attorney Fees

         In her response brief filed December 3, 1993, the respondent requests the Court to order sanctions and attorney fees against Industrial. The Court fails to find any substantial basis for such an award. Respondent has attempted to inject issues and facts which are not relevant to the issues properly before this Court. It is clear that she does not understand the legal process. This Court has previously urged her to retain an attorney to represent her, and it does so once more. Respondent's request for sanctions and attorney fees is denied.

         3. Summary Judgment Motion

         Industrial's motion for summary judgment is based on a subsequent injury. While respondent denies the second injury, documents furnished to the Court show that she filed a claim for an injury occurring on April 3, 1987, and she settled that claim for the sum of $54, 430.60. Respondent's affidavit supporting the settlement states: "It has ...

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