Obermiller v. Peak Interest, LLC, d/b/a Pizza Hut, and TIG Insurance Co., No. S-08-836 (Neb. 04/23/09).
Ruling: The Nebraska Supreme Court found the Workers' Compensation Court erred in determining that the date an employer mails a final benefits payment starts the clock for the statute of limitations.
What it means: An employee has two years from the date he receives the last compensation payment to file any claims.
Summary: A former Pizza Hut employee sustained a work-related injury and received workers' compensation benefits. The employer paid benefits to the employee's physician, with the last payment being mailed on Feb. 7, 2003. On Feb. 8, 2005, the employee filed a claim against his employer. The employer asserted his claim was barred by the two-year statute of limitations. It claimed that under Nebraska's workers' compensation law, the last date the employee could file a claim was Feb. 7, 2005 -- two years from the date it mailed the payment. The employee asserted his claim was within the two-year window because his treating physician did not receive the final payment until Feb. 13, 2003. The Nebraska Supreme Court rejected the employer's argument, concluding that the date the employee or the employee's physician receives the last payment determines the start of the statute of limitations.
The Nebraska Supreme Court noted that the workers' compensation law does not define "time of making the last payment" and found that there would be no certainty if the mailing rule were adhered to. The court held that the mailing rule would put the trigger date in the hands of the employer, and the employee would not know precisely when the employer mailed the payment. It pointed out that the employee has the greatest interest in knowing precisely when the clock starts to run, as it will be the employee -- not his employer -- who is penalized for failing to comply with the time limit. The supreme court reversed and remanded, finding that the date when the employee received the last payment begins the statute of limitations for filing a claim.
June 18, 2009
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