Despite release, worker wins fees for medical services dispute
Case name: Liberty Northwest Insurance Corp., Inc., et al. v. Watkins, et al., No. SC S057190 (Or. 02/19/10).
The Oregon Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and affirmed the order awarding a worker attorney's fees.
What it means: In Oregon, a worker may be awarded attorney's fees in a medical services dispute even if a claim disposition agreement includes a release of the worker's right to attorney's fees.
Summary: A worker suffered a compensable back injury that resulted in partial paralysis of his legs. He entered a claim disposition agreement with the carrier releasing "all rights to all workers' compensation benefits . . . except for medical services" in exchange for monetary compensation. He later requested review of the carrier's refusal to provide him a wheelchair-accessible van. The carrier contested an award of attorney's fees on the medical services claim. It argued that under Oregon law the agreement resolved all rights to attorney's fees that could potentially arise from the claim. The Oregon Supreme Court disagreed with that interpretation, explaining that the law contains a phrase exempting medical services as something the worker could release in such an agreement. The court held that a claim disposition agreement does not resolve a worker's right to attorney's fees, when those fees are derived from a subsequent claim for medical services.
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April 12, 2010
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