Submitted: September 5, 2017
TO MONTANA SUPREME COURT - 10/10/17
ORDER GRANTING RESPONDENT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
M. SANDLER JUDGE
Respondent moves for summary judgment, arguing: (1) that
Petitioner's claim for TTD or PTD benefits is
time-barred; (2) that, in the alternative, she does not have
sufficient evidence to prove that she is totally disabled as
a result of her claim-related injuries; and (3) that her
medical benefits are closed because Petitioner did not use
them for 60 consecutive months. Petitioner opposes the motion
on the grounds: (1) that she filed her Petition for Hearing
within the statute of limitations; (2) that her head and neck
problems are a result of claim-related injuries and have
deteriorated to the point that she is now unable to work; and
(3) that her medical benefits remain open because Petitioner
received treatment during the relevant 60-month period.
Respondent's motion for summary judgment is granted
because Petitioner's claim for TTD or PTD benefits is
time-barred under the two-year statute of limitations set
forth in § 39-71-2905(2), MCA. Because the issue of
Petitioner's entitlement to TTD or PTD benefits is
disposed of on statute of limitations grounds, this Court
does not reach whether there is an issue of material fact as
to her substantive entitlement to those benefits. Further,
because Petitioner has neither asserted a claim for medical
benefits in her Petition for Hearing, nor mediated that
issue, this Court currently lacks jurisdiction to consider
whether her medical benefits are closed.
1 Respondent Montana State Fund (State Fund) moves for
summary judgment, arguing: that Petitioner Debbra Smith's
claim for temporary total disability (TTD) or permanent total
disability (PTD) benefits is time-barred; that, in the
alternative, she does not have sufficient evidence to prove
she is totally disabled due to her industrial injury; and
that her medical benefits are closed because she did not use
them for 60 consecutive months.
2 Smith opposes the motion on the grounds: that she filed her
Petition for Hearing within the statute of limitations; that
her head and neck problems are a result of claim-related
injuries and have deteriorated to the point that she is now
unable to work; and that her medical benefits remain open
because she received treatment during the relevant 60-month
3 Smith fell on December 10, 2009, and suffered injuries at
work, including her left shoulder.
4 On January 5, 2010, State Fund accepted liability for her
left shoulder injury.
5 On December 18, 2010, Smith's treating physician, Larry
Stayner, MD, determined Smith was at maximum medical
improvement (MMI) and had no restrictions. He released her to
return to work at her time-of-injury job.
6 On February 9, 2011, Smith resigned via an e-mail to her
supervisor stating: "I hereby give my 2-week
resignation, in that I can no longer perform my job duties
sustained from injuries, caused by the State of Montana on 10
7 On August 24, 2011, Smith sent an e-mail to State Fund
What is State Fund prepared to do for me since the State of
Montana's Department of Administration is responsible for
my injuries sustained from a very bad fall on the raised
floor of the ITSD's data center at the Mitchell Bldg.,
December 10, 2009?
I am not, and have not, been able to physically work since
February 9, 2011.
8 On August 25, 2011, State Fund responded, and first
indicated that medical benefits remained open. However, as to
Smith's request for benefits for her alleged inability to
work, State Fund denied liability:
As far as disability benefits, prior to your voluntary
resignation, your employer committed to providing
accommodations. Presently, your file reflects that your
time-of-injury job has been approved by your treating
physician, therefore you are not currently entitled to
additional compensation benefits.
Fund also notified Smith that if she disagreed with its
decision, she could notify it in writing and, thereafter,
petition the Department of Labor & ...