A slot attendant for a casino injured her left knee when she tripped over a manhole cover at her place of employment. She filed a claim for an injury to her left lower extremity and left knee. The next year, she was terminated from her job.
Five years later, the attendant filed another claim reporting that she injured her right knee and left hip by placing stress on her right knee due to the left knee injury. She claimed that the accident took place at the employer's place of business.
Subsequently, the attendant, employer and insurer entered into a settlement agreement for her left knee injury. The agreement provided that the claim would be closed, she would receive no further compensation for medical aid for the injury, and the employer was released from liability from the accident. The administrative law judge approved the settlement.
Later, the attendant amended the claim for the right knee injury, stating that she was injured while receiving physical therapy for her left knee injury.
The administrative law judge concluded that she had jurisdiction over the right knee injury but denied benefits because the attendant was not employed by the employer and was not in the course and scope of her employment when the injury occurred. The administrative law judge also concluded that the right knee injury flowed from the left knee injury, which was settled, and the Division of Workers' Compensation no longer had jurisdiction. The Labor and Industrial Relations Commission denied compensation because the claim was "based on an injury that flowed as a natural consequence" of the left knee injury, which was settled. The attendant appealed.
Was the commission correct in denying compensation?
A.Yes.The commission lost jurisdiction over the left knee injury and injuries flowing as a natural consequence of the injury when the settlement was approved by the ALJ.
B.No.The right knee injury that occurred during physical therapy was separate and distinct from the left knee injury.
C.No.The right knee injury was filed before the settlement agreement was entered into, but the settlement did not address the right knee injury.
How the court ruled: A. The Missouri Court of Appeals held that the commission did not have jurisdiction over the right knee injury as a result of the settlement. Meinczinger v. Harrah's Casino, No. ED97415 (Mo. Ct. App. 06/12/12).
The court pointed out that the settlement agreement closed out all claims stemming from the left knee injury. The employer's entire liability was discharged when the settlement was approved by the ALJ.
B is incorrect. The court explained that injuries sustained during authorized medical treatment of a prior compensable injury are the "natural and probable consequence" of the compensable injury.
C is incorrect. The court explained that the settlement agreement exhausted the commission's jurisdiction of injuries flowing from the left knee injury. A dissenting judge pointed out that there was no statute compelling a loss of jurisdiction when the settlement agreement was entered into after the right knee injury was filed.
Editor's note: This feature is not intended as instructional material or to replace legal advice.
July 12, 2012
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