Unemployment benefits don't waive benefits for permanent total disability
Case name: White Tiger Graphics, Inc. v. Clemons, No. 2100482 (Ala. Civ. App. 01/13/12).
Ruling: The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals held that an operator was entitled to permanent total disability benefits even though he was receiving unemployment compensation benefits for the same time period.
What it means: In Alabama, an injured worker receiving unemployment compensation can be entitled to PTD benefits for the same time period.
Summary: A folder machine operator for a printing business sustained injuries to his left knee and right shoulder while working. He sought benefits and was awarded PTD benefits. The business appealed, arguing that the operator was judicially estopped from receiving PTD benefits because he received unemployment compensation benefits for the same time period. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals held that the operator was entitled to PTD benefits.
The court explained that the operator testified that he felt like he could work at the time he received unemployment compensation. He said he tried to find work but could not find work that he could do. The court said that even if he found work for which he was qualified and was willing and able to do that would not necessarily preclude a finding of permanent total disability. His assertion that he was willing and able to perform work that he was qualified to do was not totally inconsistent with his claim that he was permanently and totally disabled for workers' compensation purposes. Therefore, judicial estoppel did not prohibit his claim.
The court found that the operator was permanently and totally disabled. He was 56 years old, completed the eighth grade, and earned a general equivalency diploma. He had constant pain in his right shoulder. He could not bend, run, or crawl, and he had to lie down more than once a day due to his pain. A vocational expert said that there was no reasonable expectation that he could "acquire, perform, or consistently maintain competitive employment."
A concurring judge opined that the legislature should decide how the receipt of unemployment compensation benefits affects a claim for workers' compensation.
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March 5, 2012
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