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Carter v. Treasurer of State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division

October 25, 2016

PHILLIP CARTER, Dec., Appellant,
v.
TREASURER OF THE STATE OF MISSOURI - CUSTODIAN OF THE SECOND INJURY FUND, Respondent.

         APPEAL FROM THE LABOR AND INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS COMMISSION

          Before: Lisa White Hardwick, Presiding Judge, Karen King Mitchell and Anthony Rex Gabbert, Judges

          Lisa White Hardwick, Judge

         Edith Joanne Carter appeals the decision of the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission ("Commission") dismissing her motion to substitute her as a party for her deceased husband, Phillip Carter, [1] in his workers' compensation case and to order the Second Injury Fund ("Fund") to pay his permanent total disability benefits to her. Carter contends the Commission erred in concluding that it had no statutory authority to order the continuation of Phillip's benefits to her after his death. Additionally, she argues that the Commission's decision to deny her Phillip's benefits violated her right to due process of law. For reasons explained herein, we affirm.

         Factual and Procedural History

         Phillip sustained a work-related injury on January 25, 2005. He filed a workers' compensation claim against both his employer and the Fund on November 8, 2006. A hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). On August 18, 2009, the ALJ awarded Phillip permanent total disability benefits from the Fund. The award provided that Phillip was to receive benefits "for as long as [he] remains so disabled." The award contained no factual findings or conclusions regarding any dependents of Phillip. No party filed an application for review of the ALJ's award.

         On April 13, 2014, Phillip died of causes unrelated to his work injury. The Fund terminated payment of Phillip's benefits effective upon his death. Carter filed a motion to substitute herself as a party in the workers' compensation case and to reinstate Phillip's permanent total disability benefits to pay them to her.

         The Commission dismissed Carter's motion on July 3, 2014. The Commission determined that it lacked the authority to substitute Carter as a party or to order that she be paid Phillip's permanent total disability benefits because Phillip's August 18, 2009 award was final and contained no basis upon which the Commission could grant such relief. Carter appeals.

         While this appeal was pending, Carter filed a petition in the circuit court requesting to have Phillip's August 18, 2009 workers' compensation award entered as a judgment pursuant to Section 287.500.[2] The court entered the award as a judgment. Carter then filed a motion asking the court to enforce the judgment by ordering the Fund to pay Phillip's permanent total disability benefits to her for her lifetime. The court granted Carter's motion. The Fund appealed in Joanne Carter v. Missouri State Treasurer, as Custodian of the Second Injury Fund, WD79437 (Mo. App. Oct. 25, 2016), which was argued on the same day as this case and is handed down simultaneously.

         Standard of Review

         We will not disturb the Commission's decision in a workers' compensation case unless the Commission acted in excess of its powers, the decision was procured by fraud, the facts found by the Commission do not support the decision, or there was not sufficient competent evidence in the record to support the decision. § 287.495.1. We review questions of law de novo. Gervich v. Condaire, Inc., 370 S.W.3d 617, 620 (Mo. banc 2012). Therefore, we are not bound by and do not defer to the Commission's interpretation or application of the law. Id.

         Analysis

         In Point I, Carter contends the Commission erred in determining it had no authority to substitute her as a party and to reinstate Phillip's permanent total disability benefits, naming her the recipient of those benefits. She argues that Sections 287.530 and 287.203 provide a basis for the Commission to determine her right to have her deceased husband's benefits continued to be paid to her as his surviving dependent.

         In her motion filed with the Commission, Carter sought to have Phillip's benefits reinstated and paid to her as his dependent pursuant to Schoemehl v. Treasurer of Missouri, 217 S.W.3d 900 (Mo. banc 2007). In Schoemehl, the Supreme Court held that, when an employee with a permanent total disability dies of a cause unrelated to the compensable work-related injury, the disability benefits shall be paid to the employee's ...


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