Insurer moved for summary judgment, arguing that Workers'
Compensation Court lacked jurisdiction to set aside final
settlement more than four years after agreement was made.
The four year limitation for reopening final settlement
agreements set out in section 92-848(4), R.C.M. 1947 (1975)
acts as a statute of limitations on the jurisdiction of the
Workers' Compensation Court to set aside a 1980 final
settlement agreement, relating to a 1977 injury, more than
four years after the agreement was made. Case law relating to
full and final compromise agreements is distinguished.
Kenneth Martin (claimant), filed a Petition for Hearing
seeking to set aside a final settlement agreement approved by
the Division of Workers' Compensation on January 31,
1980. Respondent, State Compensation Insurance Fund (State
Fund), has moved to dismiss the petition or in the
alternative, for summary judgment. The motion has been
briefed and is ready for decision.
rules of the Workers' Compensation Court do not
specifically provide for motions for summary judgment. They
do, however, refer to motions "to dismiss, to quash or
for summary ruling," ARM 24.5.316(1). The
Supreme Court has approved the practice of borrowing from the
Montana Rules of Civil Procedure when this Court's rules
do not specifically regulate a procedural matter. Murer
v. State Fund, 257 Mont. 434, 436, 849 P.2d 1036 (1993).
In recent decisions this Court has applied Rule 56,
Mont.R.Civ.P., to summary judgment motions. E.g., Taylor
v. State Fund, WCC No. 9406-7066 (10/21/94); Steve
Wood v. Montana School Groups Ins. Authority, WCC
9401-6986, Order Granting Partial Summary Judgment (August
12, 1994); State Compensation Ins. Fund v. Frank
Richter, WCC. No. 9308-6367, Order Denying Summary
Judgment (March 4, 1994). It will continue to do so.
56(c) provides that "[summary] judgment . . . shall be
rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law." Summary judgment is
appropriate where the facts, viewed most favorably to the
opposing party, nonetheless entitle the moving party to
judgment as a matter of law. Kaseta v. Northwestern
Agency of Great Falls, 252 Mont. 135, 138, 827 P.2d 804
State Fund's motion for summary judgment is based on the
petition and an Affidavit of Linda Robbins. Robbins is a
claims adjuster for the State Fund and is familiar with the
claim file for the claimant in this case. Attached to her
affidavit are copies of the claimant's Petition for Final
Settlement, dated January 29, 1980, and the Division of
Workers' Compensation Order Approving Final Settlement,
dated January 31, 1980. Robbins certifies that the two copies
are true and correct copies of the originals which are
contained in the claim file. Claimant does not dispute the
authenticity of the documents.
following facts are taken from the paragraphs of the petition
which are admitted in the State Fund's response and from
the settlement documents. They are therefore deemed to be
January 3, 1977, claimant was injured in an industrial
accident arising out of and in the course and scope of his
employment. At the time he was employed by Glen Rindal, who
was insured by the State Fund.
years later, on January 29, 1980, the claimant and State Fund
entered into a Petition for Final Settlement. The amount of
the settlement was $2, 025, representing twenty-five (25)
weeks of benefits. The final paragraph of the petition reads:
The claimant hereby petitions the Division of Workers'
Compensation with the concurrence of the above named insurer
for approval of the proposed final settlement and that the
case be finally settled on the basis stated above. It is
understood by the claimant and the insurer that under the
Workers' Compensation Act an order approving this
petition for final settlement may for good cause, be
rescinded, altered, or amended by the Division within (4)
years from the date this petition is approved.
petition was then submitted to the Division of Workers'
Compensation. On January 31, 1980, the Division issued its
Order Approving Final Settlement. The final paragraph of that
IT IS ORDERED that the petition for final settlement be
approved, and that upon payment of the amount specified in
the petition, the claim shall be closed as finally settled.
Under the Workers' Compensation Act, the Division
may, for good cause, rescind, alter or amend this
final settlement within four (4) years from the date of the
petition to this Court, claimant requests that the final
settlement be reopened and that he be awarded additional
benefits. He sets forth the following allegations as
supporting his request:
A dispute exists between the parties. Despite the fact that
Claimant suffered a severe injury which required a
laminectomy of L4-5 and L5-S1, and despite the fact that this
injury had a very substantial effect on the earning capacity
of Claimant, whose work history was strictly manual labor,
the State Fund settled with the Claimant on a final
settlement basis for only 25 weeks of permanent partial
disability benefits. The State Fund entered into this
settlement with Claimant when Claimant was not represented by
an attorney. The settlement, which was for no more than his
undisputed impairment rating, was made despite the written
memorandum of the State Fund Bureau Chief which noted that
"we would never settle the case for this amount if he
had the proper ...