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Carter v. Treasurer of State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division

October 25, 2016

JOANNE CARTER, Respondent,
v.
TREASURER OF THE STATE OF MISSOURI AS CUSTODIAN OF THE SECOND INJURY FUND, Appellant.

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF HENRY COUNTY The Honorable James K. Journey, Judge

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

          Lisa White Hardwick, Judge

         Missouri State Treasurer, as Custodian of the Second Injury Fund ("Fund"), appeals the circuit court's judgment granting Joanne Carter's motion to enforce her deceased husband's workers' compensation award by ordering the Fund to pay his permanent total disability benefits to her. The Fund contends the court had no authority to make findings not originally made in the workers' compensation award and to award benefits that were not originally awarded. For reasons explained herein, we reverse the circuit court's judgment.

         Factual and Procedural History

         On January 25, 2005, Carter's husband, Phillip, [1] sustained a work-related injury. He filed a workers' compensation claim against both his employer and the Fund. An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") held a hearing on his claim in 2009. At the hearing, the only issues to be determined were:

1. Whether Phillip Carter is permanently and totally disabled due to the combined effects of the January 25, 2005 injury and pre-existing disabilities;
2. What is the nature and extent of permanent partial disability attributable to the January 25, 2005 injury; and
3. Whether [Phillip] Carter is entitled to an award of future medical care.

         In August 18, 2009, the ALJ awarded Phillip permanent total disability benefits from the Fund. The award did not include any findings or conclusions regarding any dependents. The ALJ stated that the Fund was to remain liable for permanent total disability benefits "for as long as [Phillip] remains so disabled." The ALJ did not award any benefits, contingent or otherwise, to anyone other than Phillip. No party appealed the ALJ's award.

         On April 13, 2014, Phillip died of causes unrelated to his work injury. On June 3, 2014, the administrator for the Fund notified Carter that Phillip's permanent total disability benefits under the August 18, 2009 award terminated as of his death. The administrator further informed Carter that there was an overpayment of benefits past his death in the amount of $2, 430.84, which needed to be paid back to the Fund. Carter paid this amount back to the Fund as requested. Shortly thereafter, Carter filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

         Meanwhile, Carter filed a motion with the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission ("Commission") to substitute herself as a party in Phillip's workers' compensation case and to reinstate Phillip's permanent total disability benefits to pay them to her. The Commission dismissed her motion on July 3, 2014, after determining 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 appealed in Phillip Carter, Deceased v. Missouri State Treasurer, as Custodian of Second Injury Fund, WD77747, (Mo. App. Oct. 25, 2016), which was argued on the same day as this case and is handed down simultaneously.

         While Carter's appeal of the Commission's decision was pending, she filed a petition asking the circuit court to enter Phillip's August 18, 2009 workers' compensation award as a judgment in the circuit court pursuant to Section 287.500.[2] The court entered the award as a judgment. Carter then filed a motion requesting that the court enforce the judgment by ordering the Fund to pay Phillip's permanent total disability benefits to her for her lifetime.

         The court held an evidentiary hearing. During the hearing, Carter testified that, at the time of Phillip's death, she had been married to him for 52 years and was financially dependent on him. She also testified that Phillip had no other dependents on the date of his injury or his death. Following the hearing, the court entered a judgment in favor of Carter. In the judgment, the court found that Carter was married to Phillip at the time of his injury and remained married to him until he died. Therefore, the court concluded that Carter fulfilled the contingencies to be able to receive Phillip's permanent total disability benefits as his dependent pursuant to Schoemehl v. Treasurer of Missouri, 217 ...


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