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Dickemann v. Costco Wholesale Corporation

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fifth Division

May 23, 2017

ANDREW DICKEMANN, Appellant,
v.
COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION, Respondent.

         Appeal from the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission

          Philip M. Hess, Chief Judge

         Introduction

         Andrew Dickemann ("Employee") appeals from the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission's ("Commission") order denying his and Costco Wholesale Corporation's ("Employer") joint motion to settle and commute his permanent disability award into a lump sum. In his sole point on appeal, Employee argues that the Commission misapplied the law and exceeded its authority when it denied the joint motion because it was required to approve the parties' joint motion under § 287.390.1. We affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         In July 2010, Employee was injured during the course and scope of his employment with Employer. Employee filed a claim for compensation against Employer, and, in March 2014, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") of the Missouri Division of Workers' Compensation (the "Division") awarded Employee weekly permanent total disability benefits of $799.11. Neither party filed an application for review, and the award became final in April 2014.

         In November 2016, Employee and Employer voluntarily entered into a "Stipulation for Voluntary Settlement and Agreement to Commute the Award" (the "Joint Agreement"). The parties filed the Joint Agreement with the Commission. As part of the Joint Agreement, Employer agreed to pay Employee a lump sum of $400, 000 to fully and finally settle Employee's award for lifetime disability benefits. In the Joint Agreement, Employee acknowledged that he understood his rights and benefits, that the Joint Agreement was not the result of undue influence or fraud, and that he voluntarily agreed to accept the terms of the Joint Agreement.

         On January 5, 2017, the Commission issued an order denying its approval of the Joint Agreement without prejudice. The Commission found that the Joint Agreement did not contain allegations that, if true, would support commutation of the permanent disability award under § 287.530.[1] The Commission further found that it did not have authority to approve the Joint Agreement under § 287.390 because the parties did not identify a dispute regarding the availability of award modifications under sections 287.241, 287.470, or 287.530, and the parties did not explain how the Joint Agreement was in accordance with Employee's rights under Chapter 287. This appeal follows.

         Standard of Review

         Our review of this case is governed by the provisions of § 288.210. Clement v. Kelly Services, Inc., 277 S.W.3d 327, 329 (Mo. App. E.D. 2009). We may modify, reverse, remand for rehearing, or set aside the decision of the Commission on the following grounds:

(1) That the commission acted without or in excess of its powers;
(2) That the decision was procured by fraud;
(3) That the facts found by the commission do not support the award; or
(4) That there was no sufficient competent evidence in the record to warrant the making of the award.

Grubbs v. Treas. of Missouri, 298 S.W.3d 907, 910 (Mo. App. E.D. 2009) (quoting § 288.210).

         The findings of the Commission as to the facts, if supported by competent and substantial evidence and made without fraud, are conclusive. Id. However, we are not bound by the Commission's conclusions of law or its application of law to the facts, and questions of law are reviewed independently. Id.

         Furthermore, "[s]tatutory construction is a question of law, which we review de novo." New Madrid County v. St. John Levee & Drainage Dist., 436 S.W.3d 573, 573-74 (Mo. App. S.D. 2013) (citing Bantle v. Dwyer, 195 S.W.3d 428, 431 (Mo. App. S.D. 2006)).

         Discussion

         Employee's sole point of error is that the Commission exceeded its authority and misapplied the law when it denied the Joint Agreement. Specifically, Employee argues that under the precedent set forth in Nance v. Maxon Elec. Inc.,395 S.W.3d 527 (Mo. App. W.D. 2012) ("Nance I") and Hinkle v. A.B. Dick Co., 435 S.W.3d 685 (Mo. App. W.D. 2014), the Commission was required to approve the Joint Agreement because it was entered into voluntarily by both parties and met the requirements ยง ...


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