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Edwards v. Treasurer of State of Missouri

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

May 16, 2017

ROBERT EDWARDS (deceased), Employee, and BEVERLY EDWARDS, Claimant/Appellant,
v.
TREASURER OF THE STATE OF MISSOURI AS CUSTODIAN OF THE SECOND INJURY FUND, Respondent.

         Appeal from the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission

          SHERRI B. SULLIVAN, P. J.

         Introduction

         Beverly Edwards (Claimant) appeals from the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission's (Commission) decision denying her Motion for Increase in Benefits (Motion for Increase) seeking successor workers' compensation benefits from the Second Injury Fund (SIF). We affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On March 28, 2006, Robert Edwards (Employee) suffered a compensable work-related injury. On April 22, 2009, an administrative law judge issued an award of permanent total disability benefits from the SIF to Employee. While the award makes several references to "[Employee's] wife, " it contains no finding that Claimant was Employee's wife or his dependent. Neither Employee nor the SIF appealed the decision. Employee died on September 22, 2014.[1]

         On October 16, 2015, Claimant filed a Suggestion of Death and Motion for Substitution with the Commission, advising the Commission of Employee's death and requesting she be substituted for Employee for purposes of entitlement to receive Employee's permanent total disability benefits from the SIF pursuant to Schoemehl v. Treasurer of the State of Missouri, 217 S.W.3d 900 (Mo. banc 2007). The SIF objected to Claimant's Motion for Substitution. On October 26, 2015, Claimant filed her Suggestions in Opposition to the SIF's Objection to her motion, in which Claimant modified her motion by eliminating her request for the Commission to determine her entitlement to successor benefits, instead seeking only to substitute herself as a party in Employee's workers' compensation case pursuant to Section 287.580.[2] On January 21, 2016, the Commission issued an order granting Claimant's request for substitution and revived the proceedings pursuant to Section 287.580 to continue in favor of Claimant. However, the Commission limited its order to Claimant's substitution, stating, "We make no findings or conclusions with respect to [Claimant's] entitlement (if any) to benefits under the award of April 22, 2009."

         On February 5, 2016, Claimant filed her Motion for Increase seeking Schoemehl benefits as an employee entitled to permanent and total disability benefits as a result of Employee's work-related injury and subsequent death due to unrelated causes. Claimant requested the Commission grant a rehearing pursuant to Section 287.470 to determine whether the SIF properly ended benefits upon Employee's death. On February 10, 2016, the SIF appealed the Commission's January 21, 2016 order to this Court. The SIF subsequently requested the Commission hold Claimant's Motion for Increase in abeyance pending the SIF's appeal of the prior order, a request granted by the Commission.

         On September 13, 2016, this Court dismissed the SIF's appeal for lack of jurisdiction, finding the January 21, 2016 order was not a final, appealable order because the Commission did not address the merits of Claimant's claim and did not dispose of the entire controversy between the parties. Edwards v. Zweifel, 498 S.W.3d 860, 862 (Mo. App. E.D. 2016).

         On November 2, 2016, the Commission issued its order denying Claimant's Motion for Increase finding, pursuant to Carter v. Treasurer of the State of Missouri -Custodian of the Second Injury Fund, 506 S.W.3d 368, 371-72 (Mo. App. W.D. 2016), reh'g and/or transfer denied (Nov. 22, 2016), transfer denied (Jan. 31, 2017), Claimant's contingent right to successor benefits under Schoemehl was extinguished on May 11, 2009, when the April 22, 2009 award became final because the award did not contain a determination that Claimant was Employee's dependent at the time of his injury. This appeal follows.

         Point on Appeal

         On appeal, Claimant argues the Commission erred in denying her claim for successor benefits because the denial violated her right to due process under Article I, Section 14 of the Missouri Constitution, in that the decision denied her any procedure by which she could claim her substantive right to successor benefits under the Missouri Workers' Compensation Law once all contingencies necessary to claim those rights were met and she had standing to assert her claim.

         Standard of Review

         Pursuant to Section 287.495, on appeal this Court may modify, reverse, remand or set aside the Commission's award if: (1) the Commission acted without or in excess of its powers, (2) the award was procured by fraud, (3) the facts found by the Commission do not support the award, or (4) there was ...


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