SAMUEL J. GRENZ Appellant
FIRE AND CASUALTY OF CONNECTICUT Respondent.
Submitted Date: May 7, 1997
ORDER ON APPEAL
In this latest of a series of cases commenced by Grenz, a pro
se claimant, a hearing officer for the Department of Labor
dismissed his latest claim for occupational disease benefits
on the ground of res judicata. Claimant argues that his
present contention is that a claim he filed in 1984
encompassed an occupational disease claim. He alleges this
claim has not yet been litigated.
Claimant has not yet litigated whether his 1984 claim for
compensation encompassed an existing occupational disease.
The DOL erred in dismissing the petition.
Defenses: Res Judicata. WCC reversed DOL
determination that res judicata barred pro se claimant from
arguing that his 1984 elbow injury claim encompassed a
separate and independent claim for occupational disease
benefits. (Note: WCC affirmed in Grenz v. Fire and Casualty
of Connecticut, 1998 MT 35N, No. 97-503 (Grenz V)
Samuel J. Grenz (Grenz), appeals from a December 27, 1996
Order of the Department of Labor and Industry (Department)
dismissing his latest claim for occupational disease
benefits. As in recent cases, Grenz prosecutes this case pro
sé (without an attorney).
case is the latest in a series of cases commenced by Grenz.
Grenz injured his elbow on August 24, 1984, while working for
American Stud Company. He filed a claim for compensation with
respect to the injury and later alleged that his injury was
the cause of degenerative arthritis affecting numerous parts
of his body. In 1990, this Court determined that
claimant's degenerative arthritis was not causally
related to his 1984 injury and denied his claim for permanent
total disability benefits. The Supreme Court affirmed.
Grenz v. Fire & Casualty of Connecticut, 250
Mont. 373, 820 P.2d 742 (1991) (Grenz
then filed a new petition alleging that his degenerative
arthritis was "caused [by] work-related micro-trauma
separate and apart from, and subsequent to,
the August 1984 injury." Grenz v. Fire and Casualty
of Connecticut, 255 Mont. 121, 841 P.2d 494
(1992)(emphasis added) (hereinafter "Grenz
II"). This Court dismissed the petition on res
judicata grounds, citing Grenz I. On appeal the
Supreme Court reversed, holding that the issue presented in
the prior case was not the same issue as presented in the
second petition. Grenz II. In the first case, the
issue was the relationship of Grenz's arthritis to his
August 1984 elbow injury. The petition in Grenz II
requested compensation based upon alleged microtrauma
occurring after the injury.
Grenz II the Supreme Court remanded with
instructions to determine whether the microtrauma claim was
time barred. Upon remand this Court determined that indeed it
was. The Supreme Court affirmed the determination in
Grenz v. Fire and Casualty of Connecticut, 260 Mont.
60, 857 P.2d 730 (1993) (Grenz III).
same time he was pursuing his microtrauma claim under the
Workers' Compensation Act, Grenz was also pursuing a
companion claim for occupational disease benefits. That
claim, which was also based on microtrauma occurring
subsequent to the elbow injury, was
presented to the Department, which concluded that it also was
time barred. The Department's determination was affirmed
by this Court. Once more, Grenz appealed. Again the Supreme
Court affirmed. Grenz v. Fire and Casualty of
Connecticut, 924 P.2d 264 (Mont. 1996) (Grenz
by the prior decisions, on November 12, 1996, Grenz filed yet
another petition with the Department. In his petition he
alleges that he is entitled to occupational disease benefits
under his 1984 claim for compensation. His
petition succinctly summarizes his legal theory for his
The department did not, in 1984, make a distinction between
an occupational disease and an industrial injury for purposed
[sic] of claim filing. The same claim form was utilized for
both types of claims and still is. Insurers presented with a
claim could elect to treat it as either an injury claim or a
disease claim. A worker did not need technical legal
knowledge about whether his condition was a disease or an
injury in order to file a claim. He simply needed to file
timely, which Grenz did on August 22, 1984, once a claim was
filed, the difference between an injury and a disease could
become important with regard as to what benefits might be
due, if there is a dispute, a claim submitted under one
category can be determined to fit another category, after all
"a claim is a claim is a claim."
[Quotes in original; emphasis added.]
DLI Record: Petition for Hearing at 3.
December 4, 1996, the respondent insurer (insurer) moved to
dismiss the latest petition on res judicata grounds.
DLI Record: Motion to Dismiss Petition for Hearing. The
insurer argued that Grenz I is res judicata
since it determined that Grenz's arthritis was not
causally related to his 1984 elbow injury. DLI Record: Motion
to Dismiss Petition for Hearing at 11. It further argued that
Grenz III is res judicata with respect to
any occupational disease claim because the Montana Supreme
Court determined in that appeal that "Mr. Grenz never
informed his employer that he was suffering from arthritis or
that his work was aggravating his degenerative
condition." Id. at 12. Finally, the insurer
requested that Grenz be enjoined from filing further
complaints unless signed by an attorney.
December 27, 1996, the Department's hearing officer
dismissed the petition. In relevant part, the hearing officer
Simply put the claimant's elbow injury and occupational
disease claim have be[en] litigated to death and are dead. No
issue of material fact exists and the insurer is entitled to
have this matter dismissed because the Court has already
determined in Grenz v. Fire and Casualty of
Connecticut, 53 St. Rep. 898, 924 P.2d 264. (Decided
9-17-96) that the claimant's occupational disease claim
is bared [sic] by the statute of limitations. In this latest
petition, the claimant can not be allowed to approach this
matter from a new angle indicating that he filed an
occupational disease claim in 1984 or 1985 when he did not.
The claimant cannot be allowed to approach and litigate this
claim for benefits from any more angles. The claim
appears to be as dead as dead can be. The motion to dismiss
is properly granted.
The claimant, relying upon the decision in Grenz v.
[F]ire and Casualty of Connecticut, WCC No 9310-6922,
April 21, 1994, indicates in his Reply to Insurer's
Motion to Dismiss Petition for Hearing that he is entitled to
a hearing to "raise issues to combat the insurer's
contention." (Reply p. 15) The claimant was provided a
hearing on September 19, 1994 before the below signed hearing
officer related to his claim for benefits under the
Occupational Disease Act . That very hearing and the decision
reached holding the claimant was bared [sic] by the statute
of limitations applies in this case. Grenz v[.] Fire and
Casualty of Connecticut, 53 St. Rep. 898, 924 P.2d 264.
(Decided 9-17-96) The claimant's occupational disease
claim is bared [sic] by the statute of limitations.
Id. at 3; underlining and bold in original. The
hearing officer went on to grant the insurer's request
that Grenz be enjoined from filing further petitions:
The claimant is additionally hereby enjoined from filing any
further petitions for hearing with the Department relating to
his elbow and degenerative arthritis condition as caused from
or during employment with the insured unless such filing is
signed by an attorney admitted to the Montana State Bar or
the complainant obtains filing approval from the Hearing
Bureau, Department of Labor and Industry.
Id. at 5.
January 21, 1997, Grenz filed his Notice of Appeal. The
appeal sets out 15 separate grounds of alleged error. An
Amended Notice of Appeal, filed January 28, 1997, amends the
15th ground and raises an additional, 16th ground.
record on appeal consists of the Department's file,
including some 25 exhibits contained in a separate section of
the file. The ...