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Ostwald v. Plum Creek Manufacturing

Court of Workers Compensation of Montana

December 5, 1995

BRIAN OSTWALD, Petitioner,
v.
PLUM CREEK MANUFACTURING, Respondent/Employer.

          Date Submitted: December 1, 1995

          ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          MIKE McCARTER, JUDGE

         Summary: Respondent moved for summary judgment alleging that prior Department of Labor Order of Determination of occupational disease precluded his petition alleging injury of low back.

         Held: Neither res judicata nor collateral estoppel bar claim for workers' compensation benefits where Workers' Compensation Act and Occupational Disease Act are not the same. Prior finding that claimant suffered from an occupational disease does not preclude a determination in this proceeding that he suffered a compensable injury aggravating his back condition. Summary judgment denied.

         Topics:

Defenses: Collateral Estoppel. Although DOL previously found claimant to suffer from an occupational disease, neither res judicata nor collateral estoppel bar his claim for workers' compensation benefits where Workers' Compensation Act and Occupational Disease Act are not the same. Court may determine in this proceeding that claimant suffered a compensable injury aggravating his back condition.
Defenses: Res Judicata. Although DOL previously found claimant to suffer from an occupational disease, neither res judicata nor collateral estoppel bar his claim for workers' compensation benefits where Workers' Compensation Act and Occupational Disease Act are not the same. Court may determine in this proceeding that claimant suffered a compensable injury aggravating his back condition.
Injury and Accident: Aggravation: Occupational Disease. Although DOL previously found claimant to suffer from an occupational disease, neither res judicata nor collateral estoppel bar his claim for workers' compensation benefits where Workers' Compensation Act and Occupational Disease Act are not the same. Court may determine in this proceeding that claimant suffered a compensable injury aggravating his back condition.
Occupational Disease: Subsequent Injury. Although DOL previously found claimant to suffer from an occupational disease, neither res judicata nor collateral estoppel bar his claim for workers' compensation benefits where Workers' Compensation Act and Occupational Disease Act are not the same. Court may determine in this proceeding that claimant suffered a compensable injury aggravating his back condition.

         The petitioner, Brian Ostwald, alleges that on November 14, 1994, he injured his low back in an industrial accident. Plum Creek denied his claim for compensation and sought evaluation of Ostwald under the Occupational Disease Act. Ostwald was thereafter examined by a physician designated by the Department of Labor and Industry. The physician determined that he was in fact suffering from an occupational disease. Neither Plum Creek nor Ostwald requested a second examination and on March 14, 1995, the Department issued an order of determination finding that Ostwald "is suffering from an Occupational Disease and is entitled to benefits under the Occupational Disease Act." Since neither party requested a hearing, the order became final 20 days thereafter.

         The present petition for workers' compensation benefits was filed with the Court on August 29, 1995. Plum Creek now moves for summary judgment. It contends that the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the petition and that the Department determination is res judicata as to any claim for workers' compensation benefits. The motion is denied.

         DISCUSSION

         1. Jurisdiction

         The Court plainly has jurisdiction over Ostwald's claim for workers' compensation benefits. § 39-71-2905, MCA. Indeed, it has exclusive jurisdiction over benefit disputes arising under the Workers' Compensation Act: The Department had no jurisdiction to adjudicate the workers' compensation claim. Poppleton v. Rollins, Inc., 226 Mont. 267, 271, 735 P.2d 286, 289 (1987). As far as Ostwald's request that the Court also determine that he "does not suffer from an occupational disease" (Petition for Hearing at 2), he acknowledges in his brief that this Court has no jurisdiction to make such ...


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