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Home Depot cleared to stop paying comp for missing woman unless she reappears

Home Depot cleared to stop paying comp for missing woman unless she reappears

Home Depot Inc. will not have to continue paying workers compensation benefits for a Maine employee who has been missing since 2012 unless she reappears and appeals for benefits to be reinstated, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled Thursday.

Fay E. Johnson was injured while working for Home Depot in January 2009, and Home Depot has been paying workers comp benefits to her since that time, court records show. Ms. Johnson disappeared in March 2012, and her whereabouts are unknown.

Ms. Johnson's daughter was appointed as a temporary conservator to receive and deposit her workers comp checks.

In June 2012, Home Depot filed a petition with the Maine Workers' Compensation Board seeking to stop paying benefits to Ms. Johnson and to declare her benefits forfeited since she failed to appear for a medical exam, records show. A hearing officer found in Home Depot's favor in January 2013, saying that Ms. Johnson's benefits could be suspended unless she reappeared and asked for a resumption of benefits.

Ms. Johnson's attorney appealed the decision and an appellate division of the workers comp board affirmed the ruling, according to filings. Her attorney appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

The state high court unanimously affirmed the lower court rulings on Thursday. In its decision, the court found that the workers comp board hearing offer “protected both Home Depot's legitimate interest in stopping payments that were not being received by its employee, and Johnson's interest in collecting her full benefits if she is able to receive them in the future.”

“That thoughtful and compassionate solution in light of these difficult circumstances is not error,” the ruling reads.

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