Case name: Travelers Indemnity Co. of America v. Jarrells, No. 29S02-09-8-CV-378 (Ind. 05/27/10).
The Indiana Supreme Court held that an insurer could not recoup its workers' compensation lien because the jury had already deducted it from a personal injury award.
What it means: In Indiana, a jury in a personal injury suit may hear evidence that the injured worker received workers' compensation benefits and may consider these payments in making a damages award.
Summary: A construction worker for a subcontractor was injured when a concrete block wall fell on him. His employer's insurer paid workers' compensation benefits. The worker sued the general contractor and another subcontractor for his injuries. The jury returned a verdict in his favor, and the insurer sought a declaration that it was entitled to a statutory lien to receive reimbursement for the workers' compensation benefits it paid. The Indiana Supreme Court held that the jury had already deducted the workers' compensation benefits from the award, so the insurer could not be reimbursed.
The parties disputed whether the jury deducted the amount of benefits the worker received from the insurer. Generally, if a jury considered evidence of workers' compensation payments, the jury should include the payments a worker would repay in its award. In this case, the court pointed out that the jury knew the amount of benefits to deduct from its judgment to avoid a double recovery. However, the jury did not know the amount the worker would have to repay if required. The court also stated that the purpose of the collateral source rule, to prevent double recovery, was emphasized to the jury.
The court noted that either party's argument was a possibility but the trial court was in the best position to determine the jury's intent.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
August 26, 2010
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