DECISION AND ORDER ON APPEAL
Sound Advice Hearing (Sound Advice), appeals from findings of
fact, conclusions of law, and order entered by the Montana
Department of Labor and Industry (Department) on March 11,
1994. The order dismissed Sound Advice's request for a
contested case hearing based on a lack of jurisdiction.
and Procedural Background
Advice is a business licensed to dispense hearing aids. It
apparently dispensed hearing aids to workers'
compensation claimants employed, or previously employed, by
Atlantic Richfield, which is apparently insured by CIGNA. The
Court uses the word "apparently" because the
proceeding below was commenced through sketchy
correspondence. No formal pleadings were filed and no hearing
was ever held.
dispute arose between Sound Advice and CIGNA concerning
payment for hearing aids. Following a prehearing conference,
a hearing examiner formulated the following issues to be
addressed at a hearing:
1. Can the Insurer require three estimates following advice
from an insured or provider indicating an insured's need
for a hearing aid?
2. Does claimant at this time owe the petitioner [Sound
Advice] for any hearing aides [sic] provided claimants
insured by the Insurer?
3. Has the Insurer's claim processing been inappropriate?
(Notice of Hearing (January 11, 1994).)
February 7, 1994, the matter came on for hearing before a
Department hearing examiner. At the commencement of the
hearing CIGNA moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and
lack of standing. The hearing was cancelled and the parties
were provided an opportunity to brief the jurisdictional
parties submitted briefs. Thereafter, on March 11, 1994, the
hearing examiner entered the order dismissing the proceeding.
The hearing examiner determined that Sound Advice is not a
"medical provider" and that the Department
therefore lacked jurisdiction over the dispute. Sound Advice
then appealed to this Court.
sole issue before this Court is whether the Department has
jurisdiction to hear the dispute between Sound Advice and
Court's own jurisdiction in this matter is pursuant to
section 39-71-204(3), MCA, which provides for an appeal to
the Workers' Compensation Judge from any order of the
Department. The section provides, "If a party is
aggrieved by a department order, the party may appeal the
dispute to the workers' compensation judge." Section
39-71-2401(3), MCA, also authorizes this Court to hear this
appeal. It ...