BI’s Article search uses Boolean search capabilities. If you are not familiar with these principles, here are some quick tips.
To search specifically for more than one word, put the search term in quotation marks. For example, “workers compensation”. This will limit your search to that combination of words.
To search for a combination of terms, use quotations and the & symbol. For example, “hurricane” & “loss”.
A unanimous Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that an injured worker’s settlement with his employer exhausted his administrative remedies and that he could proceed with a bad faith claim against the employer.
Jeremy Thornhill was working for Walker-Hill Environmental when he injured his back at work in July 2017. After a doctor recommended surgery, Mr. Thornhill filed a workers compensation claim. Walker-Hill filed an answer admitting that his injury arose out his employment and that it had received proper notice, however the company insisted he was not entitled to benefits because he had refused to submit to a drug test after reporting the injury, according to Thornhill v. Walker-Hill Environmental, published Thursday in Jackson.
Walker-Hill later filed an amended answer denying that Mr. Thornhill had suffered any work-related injury and denying that it had received proper notice. Following a hearing, an administrative judge ordered Mr. Thornhill to undergo an independent medical examination, which resulted in a recommendation for surgery because the work injury had substantially aggravated a preexisting condition and Mr. Thornhill had not yet reached maximum medical improvement.
After receiving the doctor’s report, Walker-Hill agreed to mediate Mr. Thornhill’s claim, after which the parties agreed to settle for $145,000, without Walker-Hill admitting that Mr. Thornhill had suffered a compensable injury. The Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission approved the deal.
Pursuant to the settlement, Mr. Thornhill signed a general release that released Walker-Hill from all claims arising out of or connected with his alleged on-the-job injury. The release further stated that Mr. Thornhill reserved the right to bring a claim for bad faith against any party and that the parties agreed that the administrative remedies for the claim had been fully exhausted.
Mr. Thornhill later filed a bad faith claim against Walker-Hill. The company moved to dismiss, arguing that Mr. Thornhill had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.
A trial judge granted the motion, reasoning that prior to filing suit for a bad faith denial of workers compensation benefits, a plaintiff must first obtain a ruling from the commission that he is entitled to the benefits at issue. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding the commission’s approval of the compromise settlement exhausted Mr. Thornhill’s administrative remedies and that his bad faith lawsuit may go forward.
The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed, saying its precedent requires only a determination that a plaintiff is “entitled” to compensation before a bad faith action may be brought. “Because Thornhill’s settlement was approved and because he had no further business with the commission, we find that he had exhausted his administrative remedies when his claim before the commission was concluded by settlement.”
WorkCompCentral is a sister publication of Business Insurance. More stories here.