Case name: Carter v. Industrial Commission of Arizona, No. 1 CA-IC 12-0001 (Ariz. Ct. App. 10/25/12).
Ruling: The Arizona Court of Appeals held that a worker was not entitled to benefits under the workers' compensation law because she was an employee of a tribal enterprise and she was covered by that entity's workers' compensation insurance.
What it means: In Arizona, employees of Indian tribes cannot receive workers' compensation from the state. Rather, they must file claims with the tribe's workers' compensation carrier.
Summary: A worker for a casino alleged that she injured her neck, low back, and right knee when she fell while reaching to move a box on top of a cabinet. An investigation of her claim revealed that the casino was operating as a tribal enterprise, and as a result, her claim was a tribal workers' compensation claim. The tribe's workers' compensation carrier accepted her claim and paid her $45,000 in medical and disability benefits before her claim was closed. The worker also sought benefits under the state workers' compensation law. The Arizona Court of Appeals held that it did not have jurisdiction over her claim.
The court explained that the worker was an employee of the tribal enterprise. As an economic enterprise of the tribe, the casino was entitled to the same sovereign immunity afforded to the tribe. Therefore, the casino was not an employer subject to the workers' compensation laws.
The worker argued that although she accepted benefits from the tribe's workers' compensation policy, she was not precluded from receiving additional benefits under the workers' compensation law. The court disagreed, pointing out that she identified herself as an employee of the tribal enterprise. The court stated that the worker chose her remedy through her employment with the tribal enterprise and she could not disclaim that employment to seek additional benefits.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
February 11, 2013
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