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Schneider v. Liberty Northwest Insurance Corp.

Court of Workers Compensation of Montana

June 19, 2001

AUBREY SCHNEIDER Petitioner
v.
LIBERTY NORTHWEST INSURANCE CORPORATION Respondent/Insurer for JOEL BOS, d/b/a BOS TOP DAIRY Employer.

          Submitted: May 29, 2001

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO AMEND OR RECONSIDER

          MIKE MCCARTER JUDGE

         Summary of Case: The insurer in this case accepted liability for a claim but later cut off benefits. Claimant petitioned for reinstatement of benefits. Although the insurer urged in its responsive pleading and the Pretrial Order that claimant was not injured in an industrial accident and it was not liable for further benefits, it did not seek repayment of benefits already dispensed. The Court found that the claimant was not truthful and was not in fact injured at work. Thereafter, the insurer moved to amend its pleadings to assert a counterclaim for repayment and amend the Court's decision to award repayment.

         Held: The motion is denied. Even though the Court looks to Rule 15(b) of the Mont.R.Civ.P., which allows for liberal amendment of pleadings to conform to evidence presented at trial, that rule does not countenance the post-trial injection of a counterclaim for damages.

         Topics:

Pleading: Counterclaims. While the Workers' Compensation Court adopts Rule 15(b), Mont.R.Civ.P., which allows for amendments to pleadings to conform to the evidence presented at trial, the Rule does not allow for injection of a counterclaim which has not previously been pled.
Procedure: Post-Trial Proceedings: Amendments to Findings. While the Workers' Compensation Court adopts Rule 15(b), Mont.R.Civ.P., which allows for amendments to pleadings to conform to the evidence presented at trial, the Rule does not allow for injection of a counterclaim which has not previously been pled. Post-trial request to amend pleadings and amend decision to award judgment on the belated counterclaim is denied.
Workers' Compensation Court Rules: Incorporation of Rules of Civil Procedure. Pursuant to WCC Rule 24.5.352(1), the WCC adopts Rule 15(b), Mont.R.Civ.P., which governs amendment of pleadings at and after trial.

         Montana Rules of Civil Procedure: Rule 15(b). Pursuant to WCC Rule 24.5.352(1), the WCC adopts Rule 15(b), Mont.R.Civ.P., which governs amendment of pleadings at and after trial.

         ¶1 In this Court's Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Judgment, I found that claimant did not suffer an industrial accident as he claimed. I denied his request for further benefits and ordered him to repay 49 days of benefits which had been paid to him pursuant to section 39-71-610, MCA. Respondent (Liberty) now moves to amend its pleadings to add a counterclaim for reimbursement of other benefits it has paid claimant to date and to amend the Court's decision to order claimant to repay those benefits.

         Discussion

         ¶2 Liberty cites Rule 15(b), Mont.R.Civ.P., as authority for its request. The rule provides:

(b) Amendments to Conform to the Evidence. When issues not raised by the pleadings are tried by express or implied consent of the parties, they shall be treated in all respects as if they had been raised in the pleadings. Such amendment of the pleadings as may be necessary to cause them to conform to the evidence and to raise these issues may be made upon motion of any party at any time, even after judgment; but failure to so amend does not affect the result of the trial of these issues. If evidence is objected to at the trial on the ground that it is not within the issues made by the pleadings, the court may allow the pleadings to be amended and shall do so freely when the presentation of the merits of the action will be subserved thereby and the objecting party fails to satisfy the court that the admission of such evidence would prejudice the party in maintaining the party's action or defense upon the merits. The court may grant a continuance to enable the objecting party to meet such evidence.

         While the Montana Rules of Civil Procedure do not directly apply to the Workers' Compensation Court, the Court will apply those rules when its own rules are silent on a matter and the rules are not inconsistent with the purpose and nature of the ...


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