Tolling shields claim for temporary disability from dismissal
Case name: Marshalls, Inc. v. Huffman, No. 0766-10-3 (Va. Ct. App. 11/22/11).
Ruling: The Virginia Court of Appeals held that an associate's claim for benefits was timely, and she was entitled to temporary total disability benefits.
What it means: In Virginia, the tolling mechanism operates twice in cases in which a worker works light-duty employment after receiving temporary disability payments and during and after receiving permanent partial disability payments.
A general warehouse associate suffered a compensable injury to her left knee while working. She received TTD benefits. The employer stopped paying benefits when she began light-duty employment. She earned more during her light-duty employment than her preinjury average weekly wage. She subsequently received PPD benefits for a nine-month period. She continued to work in a light-duty capacity for the employer. Four years later, her employment ended due to an economic layoff. She sought TTD benefits. The employer argued that her claim was time-barred and that she failed to market her residual work capacity. The Virginia Court of Appeals held that the claim for benefits was timely, and she was entitled to TTD benefits.
The court explained that the tolling mechanism operated twice in cases in which a worker worked light-duty employment after she received temporary disability payments and during and after receiving PPD payments. Tolling first began when her temporary disability benefits ended and her light-duty employment began. The two-year tolling mechanism began a second time when her PPD benefits ended. When she filed her claim for benefits, the claim was not barred by the statute of limitations.
The court said that a one-year limitations period for a change in condition did not apply because it only applied to a change in physical condition. Also, the tolling mechanism existed to prevent "possible abuse by employers." The legislature sought "to prevent employers from lulling partially disabled workers into a false sense of security" during this period by providing workers light-duty work at their preinjury wage for two years and then terminating the worker without liability for future disability benefits.
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January 16, 2012
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