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Maggs v. State Compensation Insurance Fund

Court of Workers Compensation of Montana

May 16, 1995

WILLIAM L. MAGGS, SR. Petitioner
v.
STATE COMPENSATION INSURANCE FUND Respondent.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS 1988 CLAIM

          Mike McCarter JUDGE

         Summary: Insurer moves to dismiss claim for benefits from injury for which claimant failed to file a written claim within one year of the industrial accident. Claimant asserts that his supervisor's threat of termination if he filed a claim for compensation estops the insurer from raising the one-year statute of limitations set out in section 39-71-601(1), MCA.

         Held: Under section 39-71-601(2), MCA (1989), the Department of Labor and Industry is the exclusive forum for presentment of claimant's estoppel arguments. While the Workers' Compensation Court may judicially review the Department's determination, it lacks jurisdiction to conduct a de novo hearing into claimant's estoppel arguments. Thus, the petition with respect to the 1988 claim is dismissed.

         Topics:

Constitutions, Statutes, Regulations and Rules: section 39-71-601, MCA (1989). Under section 39-71-601(2), MCA (1989), the Department of Labor and Industry is the exclusive forum for presentment of claimant's argument that the insurer is estopped from relying on the one-year statute of limitations for claim filing. While the Workers' Compensation Court may judicially review the Department's determination, it lacks jurisdiction to conduct a de novo hearing into claimant's argument that the insurer is estopped where his supervisor allegedly threatened him with termination if he filed a workers' compensation claim.
Limitations Periods: Claim Filing: Estoppel. Under section 39-71-601(2), MCA (1989), the Department of Labor and Industry is the exclusive forum for presentment of claimant's argument that the insurer is estopped from relying on the one-year statute of limitations for claim filing. While the Workers' Compensation Court may judicially review the Department's determination, it lacks jurisdiction to conduct a de novo hearing into claimant's argument that the insurer is estopped where his supervisor allegedly threatened him with termination if he filed a workers' compensation claim.
Jurisdiction: Estoppel. Under section 39-71-601(2), MCA (1989), the Department of Labor and Industry is the exclusive forum for presentment of claimant's argument that the insurer is estopped from relying on the one-year statute of limitations for claim filing. While the Workers' Compensation Court may judicially review the Department's determination, it lacks jurisdiction to conduct a de novo hearing into claimant's argument that the insurer is estopped where his supervisor allegedly threatened him with termination if he filed a workers' compensation claim.
Estoppel and Waiver: Equitable Estoppel. Under section 39-71-601(2), MCA (1989), the Department of Labor and Industry is the exclusive forum for presentment of claimant's argument that the insurer is estopped from relying on the one-year statute of limitations for claim filing. While the Workers' Compensation Court may judicially review the Department's determination, it lacks jurisdiction to conduct a de novo hearing into claimant's argument that the insurer is estopped where his supervisor allegedly threatened him with termination if he filed a workers' compensation claim.
Procedure: Motion to Dismiss. Dismissal on statute of limitations grounds is appropriate "when the complaint on its face establishes that the claim is barred by the statute of limitations, and the usual requirement that such a defense be affirmatively pled need not be followed." See, Beckman v. Chamberlain, 673 P.2d 480, 482 (1983).
Statutes and Statutory Interpretation: Procedural. Where Wolfe v. Webb, 251 Mont. 217, 226-227 (1992) holds that a statute changing the forum authorized to resolve a particular dispute is a procedural change applying to cases that arose prior to the change, the 1989 statute applies to claimant's 1991 claim, with that statute conferring original jurisdiction on the Department of Labor and Industry to resolve claimant's argument that the insurer is estopped from relying on the one-year claim-filing statute of limitations of section 39-71-601, MCA (1989).
Statutes and Statutory Interpretation: Retroactive. Where Wolfe v. Webb, 251 Mont. 217, 226-227 (1992) holds that a statute changing the forum authorized to resolve a particular dispute is a procedural change applying to cases that arose prior to the change, the 1989 statute applies to claimant's 1991 claim, with that statute conferring original jurisdiction on the Department of Labor and Industry to resolve claimant's argument that the insurer is estopped from relying on the one-year claim-filing statute of limitations of section 39-71-601, MCA (1989).
Statutes and Statutory Interpretation: Applicable Law. Where Wolfe v. Webb, 251 Mont. 217, 226-227 (1992) holds that a statute changing the forum authorized to resolve a particular dispute is a procedural change applying to cases that arose prior to the change, the 1989 statute applies to claimant's 1991 claim, with that statute conferring original jurisdiction on the Department of Labor and Industry to resolve claimant's argument that the insurer is estopped from relying on the one-year claim-filing statute of limitations of section 39-71-601, MCA (1989).

         The petitioner in this case, William L. Maggs, Jr. (claimant), seeks workers' compensation benefits for industrial accidents he alleges occurred on November 30, 1988 and August 27, 1991. According to his Petition for Hearing, he injured his lower back both times. His petition discloses that he did not file a written claim for the 1988 injury until July 8, 1991, approximately two years and seven months later. His claim for the second injury was timely filed.

         The State Compensation Insurance Fund (State Fund), has moved to dismiss the claim respecting the November 30, 1988 injury. It argues that the Court lacks ...


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