Submitted: May 11, 2018.
ORDER GRANTING RESPONDENT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT AND DENYING PETITIONER'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
M. SANDLER JUDGE
Respondent moved for summary judgment, arguing that
Petitioner's claim for medical benefits is time-barred
under the two-year statute of limitations at §
39-71-2905(2), MCA. In the alternative, Respondent asserts
that Petitioner's medical benefits terminated under
§ 39-71-704(1)(f), MCA (2005), because he did not use
them for 60 consecutive months. Petitioner moved for summary
judgment, arguing that his claim is timely, and that there
was not a 60-month period of time in which he did not use his
This Court granted summary judgment for Respondent.
Petitioner's claim is time-barred under the two-year
statute of limitations in § 39-71-2905(2), MCA.
Respondent denied liability for all further medical treatment
on Petitioner's right knee in 2009, but Petitioner did
not petition this Court to decide the dispute until 2017,
approximately six years after the statute of limitations ran.
1 Petitioner Christopher Simpson and Respondent Montana
Municipal Interlocal Authority (MMIA) filed an Agreed
Statement of Facts and 15 exhibits. They also filed cross
motions for summary judgment. The parties dispute whether
MMIA is liable for medical benefits for Simpson's right
knee. Because this Court rules that Simpson's claim for
medical benefits for his right knee is time-barred by the
statute of limitations at § 39-71-2905(2), MCA, it does
not address the issue of whether Simpson's medical
benefits terminated under § 39-71-704(1)(f), MCA (2005).
2 Simpson is a longtime Officer with the Billings Police
Department. In the spring of 2006, Simpson injured his right
knee in the course of his employment. MMIA, the insurer for
the City of Billings, accepted liability.
3 On April 19, 2006, Scott Ross, MD, performed an arthroscopy
with removal of loose body and microfracture technique of the
lateral femoral condyle at the patellofemoral joint of
Simpson's right knee. Following the procedure, Dr. Ross
concluded that Simpson was at maximum medical improvement
(MMI) for his right-knee injury with a 0% impairment rating
and released him to return to work with no restrictions. No
future medical appointments or procedures were scheduled.
4 On February 27, 2007, MMIA sent Simpson a letter informing
him that due to the inactivity in medical treatment his file
was being closed, but that his medical benefits remained
open. MMIA also informed Simpson that pursuant to §
39-71-704(1)(f), MCA (2005), his medical benefits would
terminate if they were not used for 60 consecutive months.
Lastly, MMIA clarified that any further medical treatment
would require prior authorization.
5 On January 13, 2009, Simpson met with Michael Willis, MD,
after experiencing pain and swelling in his right knee after
jogging. Dr. Willis' impression was: "Right knee
pain with history of patellofemoral degeneration, likely
representing loose body." Dr. Willis recommended Simpson
undergo an MRI of his right knee "to evaluate for loose
6 MMIA paid for the January doctor's visit because it had
been authorized. However, via a letter dated March 17, 2009,
MMIA notified Simpson that because Dr. Willis' records
from January 13, 2009, stated that he began experiencing pain
and swelling after jogging, it did not appear that his
current injury was related to his work-related injury and
MMIA was therefore "not liable for any future treatment
directly or indirectly related to the diagnosis of right knee
pain." MMIA's letter also stated, "no further
treatment regarding your right knee pain is authorized."
MMIA's letter concluded with instructions that if Simpson
disagreed with its decision, he could petition the Department
of Labor & Industry's Employment Relations Division
7 Simpson testified that after receiving this letter, he
understood that MMIA was "trying to" deny further
liability for his right-knee injury. He also testified that
he "believed" that MMIA was not going to authorize
any further treatment for his right knee. When asked if he
thought "there was any treatment that MMIA would offer .
. . after you received this letter," Simpson answered:
"Not without having to sue them."
8 On March 26, 2009, Dr. Willis sent a letter to MMIA stating
that he thought Simpson's current symptoms were related
to his original work injury and surgery.
9 On April 17, 2009, MMIA sent a letter to Dr. Willis denying
his request for authorization for an MRI of Simpson's
right knee. MMIA highlighted that Simpson had previously been
placed at MMI and that it appeared that Simpson's current
right-knee pain was related to Simpson's jogging. As
authority for its denial of authorization, MMIA cited §
39-71-407(6), MCA, which states: "If a claimant who has
reached maximum healing suffers a subsequent nonwork-related
injury to the same part of the body, the workers'
compensation insurer ...