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Commission can’t dismiss claim on worker's failure to respond

Posted On: Jan. 10, 2022 11:12 AM CST


The Idaho Supreme Court on Wednesday revived a workers compensation claim, finding the Industrial Commission acted in excess of its authority in dismissing the case based on a woman’s failure to promptly respond to discovery requests.

Taleetha Fuentes was working for Cavco Industries Inc. when she filed a claim for an injury to her hands. The company’s insurer at first denied liability for the claim and later served Fuentes with interrogatories and a request for the production of documents, according to records in Fuentes v. Cavco Industries Inc., filed in Boise.

When Ms. Fuentes did not respond to the discovery requests within 36 days, the insurer’s counsel sent a "reminder letter" to her counsel granting Ms. Fuentes an additional 10 days to respond and stated that a motion to compel may be filed — allegedly the start of months of delays that ultimately led the commission to dismiss the claim without prejudice.

Five months later, Ms. Fuentes finally filed responses to the discovery requests.

The insurer filed a motion to dismiss Ms. Fuentes' motion claiming was no active complaint, as it had been dismissed. Ms. Fuentes then filed a petition to vacate the dismissal, arguing that she was entitled to declaratory relief. The commission denied Ms. Fuentes’ petition for a declaratory ruling, as well as her motion to reconsider.

On appeal, the Supreme Court said the commission acted in excess of its power and misapplied state law dismissing the case, ruling that there was no evidence that Ms. Fuentes had not taken action on her case for six months. Thus, in dismissing the claim, the court said, the commission “wholly failed to follow its own procedure” after it had incorrectly identified the wrong code as the governing legal standard.

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