June 26, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Workers’ Compensation Act Does Not Require Employer to Cover Cost of Conservator or Guardian

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Nanez v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office on Thursday, November 15, 2018.

Workers’ Compensation—C.R.S. § 8-42-101(1)(a)Conservator or Guardian ServicesMedical Treatment.

While working as a plumber, Nanez sustained permanent disabling closed-head injuries, causing significant cognitive deficits. His authorized treating physician (ATP) placed him at maximum medical improvement with a permanent impairment rating of 47% of the whole person. His employer admitted liability. As a result of his cognitive impairments, Nanez’s ATP recommended that both a conservator and guardian be appointed to function as Nanez’s “peripheral brain.” Both were appointed, and Nanez requested his employer pay for them pursuant to C.R.S. § 8-42-101(1)(a). He also asked that his average weekly wage (AWW) be increased to cover his lost potential earning capacity. Both requests were denied by an ALJ, and the denial was affirmed by a panel of the Industrial Claim Appeals Office (Panel).

On appeal, Nanez contended that his employer should be liable to pay for the guardian and conservator. He contended that their services are medical benefits because they relieve the effects of his brain injury. The court of appeals found support for the ALJ’s findings that the conservator’s services handling Nanez’s finances didn’t cure or relieve him of the injury’s effects, and Nanez failed to establish that the guardian’s duties in managing his treatment and ongoing care were reasonable and necessary. The court concluded that the conservator’s and guardian’s services were not medical treatment as that term is used in C.R.S. § 8-42-101(1)(a) and therefore the employer was not liable to pay for them.

Nanez also contended that the Panel erred in affirming the ALJ’s denial of the AWW increase. The ALJ’s decision declining the increased AWW because Nanez’s potential future wages are too speculative is supported by substantial record evidence, and the Panel properly affirmed it.

The order was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: No Personal Jurisdiction Over Out-of-State Employer in Workers’ Comp Case

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Youngquist v. Miner on Tuesday, February 21, 2017.

Workers’ Compensation—Personal Jurisdiction—Specific Jurisdiction.

In this case, the Colorado Supreme Court considered whether Colorado has jurisdiction to award benefits for out-of-state work-related injuries and impose a statutory penalty on an employer under C.R.S. § 8-41-204 when the employer is not a citizen of Colorado and has no offices or operations in Colorado but hired a Colorado citizen within the state. The court concluded that under the facts of this case, Colorado lacks personal jurisdiction over the employer and therefore the employer cannot be subject to the Workers’ Compensation Act of Colorado, C.R.S. §§ 8-40-101 to 8-47-209. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Statutory Presumption of Occupational Disease for Firefighters Not Irrebuttable

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Industrial Claim Appeals Office v. Town of Castle Rock on Monday, May 2, 2016.

Workers’ Compensation—Firefighters—Statutory Presumptions.

In a companion case, City of Littleton v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office, 2016 CO 25, the Colorado Supreme Court held that the presumption created by the firefighter statute, C.R.S. § 8-41-209, relieves the claimant firefighter of the burden to prove that his cancer “result[ed] from his or her employment as a firefighter” for purposes of establishing under C.R.S. § 8-41-209(1) that his condition is a compensable “occupational disease” under the Workers’ Compensation Act. However, C.R.S. § 8-41-209(2) does not establish a conclusive, or irrebuttable, presumption. Instead, the firefighter statute shifts the burden of persuasion to the firefighter’s employer to show, by a preponderance of the medical evidence, that the firefighter’s condition “did not occur on the job.”

Here, the court held that an employer can seek to meet its burden to show a firefighter’s cancer “did not occur on the job” by presenting particularized risk-factor evidence indicating that it is more probable that the claimant firefighter’s cancer arose from some source other than the firefighter’s employment. To meet its burden of proof, the employer is not required to prove a specific alternate cause of the firefighter’s cancer. Rather, the employer need only establish, by a preponderance of the medical evidence, that the firefighter’s employment did not cause the firefighter’s cancer because the firefighter’s particular risk factors render it more probable that the firefighter’s cancer arose from a source outside the workplace.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Companion Firefighter Workers’ Compensation Case Remanded for Reconsideration

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in City of Englewood v. Harrell on Monday, May 2, 2016.

Workers’ Compensation—Firefighters—Statutory Presumptions.

The Colorado Supreme Court accepted transfer of this case from the Colorado Court of Appeals pursuant to C.R.S. § 13-4-109 and C.A.R. 50. The court set aside the order issued by a panel of the Industrial Claim Appeals Office and remanded with directions to return the matter to the administrative law judge for reconsideration in light of its decisions announced in City of Littleton v. Industrial Claim AppealsOffice, 2016 CO 25, and Industrial Claim Appeals Office v. Town of Castle Rock, 2016 CO 26.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.


Colorado Court of Appeals: Workers’ Compensation Act Applies to Employers who Hire in Colorado

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Youngquist Brothers Oil & Gas, Inc. v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office on Thursday, February 25, 2016.

Workers’ Compensation Act—Out-of-State Employer/Injury.

Youngquist Brothers Oil and Gas, Inc. (Youngquist) has business operations in North Dakota but hires workers from other states, including Colorado. It maintains workers’ compensation insurance in North Dakota but not Colorado.

Miner lived in Colorado. He applied for and was offered a job by Youngquist, who then flew him to North Dakota. During his second shift, Miner injured his back. Youngquist agreed to allow Miner to seek medical treatment in Colorado and arranged for his return. Miner filed a workers’ compensation claim with North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance, which was denied. Miner then filed for workers’ compensation benefits in Colorado. After a hearing, the administrative law judge (ALJ) determined that he was hired in Colorado and therefore his claim was subject to the Workers Compensation Act (Act). The ALJ found he suffered a compensable work-related injury, awarded him benefits, and imposed a 50% penalty on Youngquist for failing to carry workers’ compensation insurance in Colorado. The Industrial Claim Appeals Office affirmed the ALJ’s order.

On appeal, Youngquist argued it is not subject to the Act because it does not conduct business in Colorado, Miner was not hired in Colorado, and it does not have sufficient contacts with Colorado to establish personal jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals disagreed. Colorado has jurisdiction to award benefits for out-of-state work-related injuries if an employee was (1) hired or regularly employed in Colorado and (2) injured within six months of leaving Colorado. It was undisputed that Miner was injured within six months of leaving Colorado. The Court found record support for the ALJ’s finding that the “last act necessary” to form the employment relationship occurred in Colorado when Miner accepted the job offer at his home, not after he filled out the paperwork and did the drug testing in North Dakota.

Youngquist also alleged that it lacked sufficient minimum contacts with Colorado to be subject to personal jurisdiction there and that enforcing Colorado benefits violates principles of comity. The Court rejected the former and did not reach the latter constitutional argument.

The Court also rejected Youngquist’s argument that the ALJ erred in applying the Act’s penalty provision.

The order was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Volunteer Traveling to Meeting Was Employee for Workers’ Compensation Purposes

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Teller County, Colorado v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office on Thursday, April 23, 2015.

Workers’ Compensation—Volunteer as Employee—Coming and Going Rule.

Claimant is the president and incident commander for Teller County Search and Rescue (TCSAR). All employees of TCSAR, including claimant, are volunteers who receive no monetary compensation.

On May 10, 2013, claimant left his home in Florissant to attend a fire chiefs meeting in Divide. Before leaving, he contacted the Teller County dispatch to “mark in service,” thereby notifying Teller County that he was en route to the meeting. As he was driving, he was struck head on by an approaching vehicle and sustained severe injuries.

He filed a workers’ compensation benefits claim, asserting that as a volunteer he fell within the definition of “employee” set forth in CRS § 8-40-202(1)(a)(I)(A). The administrative law judge (ALJ) agreed and the Industrial Claim Appeals Office(Panel) affirmed.

On appeal, Teller County argued that (1) claimant’s actions did not fall within the statutory definition of “employee” because he was driving to a meeting and not actually performing duties or engaged in an organized drill or training when the accident occurred; (2) the Panel’s inclusion of “planning and preparation” activities under the definition of employee broadened the scope of the provision beyond the General Assembly’s intent; (3) the Panel engaged in improper fact finding in affirming the ALJ’s decision; and (4) claimant’s claim should have been barred by the “coming and going” rule.

The Court of Appeals was not persuaded by these arguments. Attending fire chief meetings was clearly a part of claimant’s position and duties as president of TCSAR. It was, contrary to Teller County’s argument, a part of the custom and practice of claimant’s position. In addition, the Court reviewed the record and found no improper fact finding by the Panel. Finally, the Court found that the circumstances here fell squarely in one of the many exceptions to the coming and going rule, which ordinarily does not allow workers benefits if they are injured coming from or going to work. The order was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Exclusive Remedy Provision of Workers’ Compensation Act Did Not Bar Plaintiff from Seeking Damages in Tort

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Krol v. CF&I Steel on Thursday, March 14, 2013.

Summary Judgment—Workers’ Compensation—CRS §§ 8-41-401 and -402—Statutory Employer—“On and To”—Summary Judgment Sua Sponte.

Plaintiff Stanislaw Krow appealed the trial court’s motion of summary judgment in favor of defendant CF&I Steel. The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded with directions.

CF&I owns a rail mill in Pueblo. It has several industrial cranes on the property, many of them inside buildings. In July 2002, CF&I and Alpine Crane entered into a contract obligating Alpine to maintain and inspect CF&I’s cranes. In January 2007, CF&I and SK’s Industrial Management, LLC (SKIM) entered into a contract obligating SKIM to train CF&I’s employees to maintain and inspect the cranes. That month, Krol, an employee of SKIM, went to the mill to provide inspection training. While he was standing on top of one of the cranes, training a CF&I employee how to inspect a crane, the crane moved and Krol was injured.

Krol received workers’ compensation benefits through SKIM’s workers’ compensation insurance. He sued CF&I, asserting several tort claims. CF&I moved for summary judgment pursuant to CRS § 8-41-402, contending that the undisputed facts established that Krol was on its property when he was injured. Therefore, CF&I argued, it was Krol’s “statutory employer” and he could not seek additional compensation from CF&I as a matter of law. Krol argued that CRS § 8-41-402 applies only when the injured person was doing work both “on and to” another’s property, and there was at least a genuine issue of fact as to whether he was doing work to CF&I’s property when he was injured.

The district court granted summary judgment in favor of CF&I, agreeing with its argument. It also found that summary judgment was appropriate under CRS § 8-41-401, because if CF&I did not contract out the training work, it would do the work itself, and because SKIM carried adequate workers’ compensation insurance.

CRS § 8-41-402 states that if a landowner is a statutory employer, and the contractor, subcontractor, or person hired to do the work carries workers’ compensation insurance covering the injured party’s injuries, the injured party is deemed an employee of that statutory employer, and the injured party may not seek damages from the statutory employer. The Court of Appeals found that, contrary to the district court’s finding and CF&I’s argument, an injured party does not only have to have been “on” the landowner’s property when performing work for the statute to apply, but the injured party also must have been doing work “to” the property for it to apply. This determination was based on the plain language of the statute. The Court further held that there was a factual question as to whether the work Krol was performing was to CF&I’s property. Therefore, the grant of summary judgment was in error.

The district court also erred in alternatively granting summary judgment under CRS § 8-41-401, which provides immunity when the work contracted out by the entity sought to be held liable is part of that entity’s regular business, as defined by its total business operation. The Court held that although summary judgment may be granted for a reason not raised by a moving party, the court should not do so without first giving the parties notice and reasonable opportunity to argue the issue and present evidence. Thus, it was error for the district court to grant summary judgment on grounds not raised by CF&I and of which Krol had no notice to argue.

Summary and full case available here.