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An appeals court in Mississippi on Tuesday classified as “moot” the court-ordered home modifications in a case stemming from a woman who became a paraplegic as a result of a work-related car accident in 2015 and who died while her case went to appeal.
Sharon Grantham was injured while working for Gamma Healthcare Inc., whose workers compensation insurer began paid benefits and provided medical treatment but later disputed requests for modifications to her home and a wheelchair-accessible van.
An administrative judge ordered the insurer — Employers Insurance Co. of Wausau — to pay for necessary modifications and a wheelchair-accessible van and, as relevant to the current appeal, the judge and the state Workers’ Compensation Commission in 2019 also ordered the insurer to replace the failed or failing septic and HVAC systems at Ms. Grantham’s home and to pay for property/collision insurance for her modified van, according to documents in Gamma Healthcare Inc. and Employers Insurance Company of Wausau v. Estate of Sharon Burrell Grantham, filed in the Court of Appeals of Mississippi in Jackson.
In a separate order, the commission also ordered the insurer to pay $4,000 in attorney’s fees “as a sanction for appealing the (judge’s) order to replace the septic and HVAC systems,” according to documents.
On appeal, Gamma Health and its insurer challenged the commission’s orders regarding the septic and HVAC systems, insurance and sanctions. Ms. Grantham died after the appeal was filed and her estate was substituted as the appellee, “and the Estate concedes that Grantham’s death abates the Employer/Carrier’s obligations to make home repairs and pay for insurance on the van,” documents state.
“For that reason, the primary issues in this appeal are moot,” the appeals court wrote in its ruling, adding that “the appeal from Commission’s orders requiring the Employer/Carrier to replace the septic and HVAC systems and pay for van insurance is dismissed.”
The court also vacated the orders, writing that it does “not address the merits of those issues because they are moot, but we vacate the underlying orders because they require the Employer/Carrier to take actions that the parties agree are no longer required.”
The appeals court also reversed the sanctions order, writing that the sanctions “were inappropriate because the Employer/Carrier presented at least a colorable legal argument in support of its appeal.”
The employer and its insurer had argued that “the evaluation of the septic system showed that the system’s failure was the result of a myriad of ‘longstanding’ issues that predated and were unrelated to Grantham’s injury and were ‘not the responsibility of the [Employer/Carrier] to remedy.’ Similarly, the Employer/Carrier argued that the evaluation of the HVAC system showed that the system was already ‘two to four years beyond its life expectancy’ at the time of Ms. Grantham’s accident and revealed “numerous other problems with the system, most of which (were) attributable to lack of maintenance” and “unrelated to Grantham’s work-related injury,” according to documents.
(Reuters) — Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant on Tuesday signed a far-reaching law allowing people with religious objections to deny wedding services to same-sex couples and protecting other workplace actions considered discriminatory by gay rights activists.