Vermont Supreme Court Case Summaries 2016 – Workers’ Compensation

Bindrum v. American Home Assurance Co., Chartis Insur. & NuQuest Bridge Pointe, 2016 VT. Unpub. Lexis 150 (Aug. 19, 2016). Facts: the plaintiff had a workers’ compensation claim, and brought a medical malpractice claim and bad faith claim against the WC carrier. A settlement was reached among parties that said AIG would establish and fund a Medical Set-Aside account to be approved by CMS up to $750,000. AIG hired NuQuest, which negotiated an MSA approved by CMS in the amount of $282,179. The parties entered into a Form 15 which recited that amount and which was approved by VTDOL. Plaintiff sued in superior court alleging that AIG had submitted an undervalued MSA. The superior court grant SJ for the defendant.

Holding: The plaintiff lacked standing to challenge the MSA, as he had no interest in the MSA beyond its approval by CMS. The approval ensured that Medicare would pay for any shortfall.

 

Conant v. Entergy Corp., 2016 VT 74 (July 8, 2016). Facts: The employer was, for all practical purposes, self-insured for workers’ compensation claims up to $1,000,000 as it had to pay back the carrier (AIG) for benefits paid up to this amount. It also was subject to a collective bargaining agreement that required it to pay short- and long-term disability benefits up to 100 percent of the employee’s wages for both occupational and non-occupational injuries with an off-set for WC benefits for wage replacement. AIG was the third party administer of the WC claim and denied the WC claim. The Employer paid benefits under the STD policy. VTDOL then ordered TTD benefits be paid. Employer sought an offset of the TTD owed because of the STD paid. The Commissioner of VTDOL denied the offset saying that it was not an issue that arose under the WC Act. The employer appealed to the SCOVT.

Holding: 21 V.S.A. § 651 provides for an offset in this situation for, “payments made by an employer or his or her insurer to an injured worker during the period of his or her disability . . . which, by provisions of this chapter, were not due and payable when made, may, subject to approval of the commissioner, be deducted from the amount to be paid as compensation.” Allowing a double payment would be against public policy. The Commissioner of VTDOL has an obligation to determine whether the claimant would be paid twice. Dissent: the dissent did not think that 21 V.S.A. § 651 created a mandatory obligation and would have deferred instead to the VTDOL decision not to invoke such jurisdiction.