August 20, 2019

Case Law: Specialty Restaurants v. Nelson, Workers’ Comp Beneficiary Entitled to Additional Lump Sum Under 2007 Amendment

on May 10, 2010.

Workers’ Compensation—Lump Sum Payments—CRS § 8-43-406—2007 Amendment Prospective—Procedural Versus Substantive Amendments—Prior Judicial Precedent.

The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals that a beneficiary of a workers’ compensation award for permanent and total disability (PTD) is entitled to an additional lump sum payment up to the maximum aggregate available, pursuant to a 2007 amendment to CRS § 8-43-406. The Court held that the Colorado General Assembly’s amendment is procedural in nature and is prospectively applied.

Stephanie Nelson suffered an admitted work-related injury in 1990, was awarded PTD benefits in 2002, and subsequently received a lump sum payment in the amount of the statutory maximum aggregate available at the time of her injury. In 2007, the general assembly increased the maximum aggregate lump sum available, and Nelson requested an additional lump sum payment under the new statutory cap.

Nelson is entitled to the additional lump sum payment, because an employee’s election of a lump sum payment functions as an advance of an award of PTD benefits to which the employee already is entitled, thereby altering only the method of distribution of an existing award. A lump sum payment does not create, eliminate, or modify the parties’ existing rights or liabilities, which are determined as of the date of injury but vest only on entry of an award of benefits. Accordingly, the lump sum provision is procedural in nature and applies prospectively to requests for lump sum payments filed subsequent to the amendment’s date of enactment, irrespective of the date of the employee’s injury. Because the court of appeals’ opinion in Eight Thousand West Corp. v. Stewart, 546 P.2d 1281 (Colo.App. 1976), does not constitute a prior judicial interpretation of particular language that has remained unchanged throughout subsequent amendments, it is inapposite and overruled to the extent it is inconsistent with this opinion.

Summary, full case, and all May 10, 2010, opinions also available here.

CBA-CLE recently hosted the 2010 Spring Workers’ Compensation Law Update. Homestudies are available in three formats: MP3 download, video on-demand, and audio CD.
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