Case name: Holdsworth v. Greenwood Farmers Cooperative, No. S-12-403 (Neb. 06/14/13).
The Nebraska Supreme Court held that a worker was not entitled to waiting-time penalties or attorney's fees.
What it means: In Nebraska, a worker waived his right to penalties by filing a waiver of his claim as part of a settlement.
A worker filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits. He entered into a lump-sum settlement with his employer and its carrier. The worker filed a release waiving "all rights" under the workers' compensation law. The worker agreed that the employer was "fully and completely discharged from further liability" on account of his injury. The settlement payment was mailed 42 days after the release was filed with the court. Because the payment was made more than 30 days after the release was filed, the worker sought a waiting-time penalty and attorney's fees. The Nebraska Supreme Court held that the worker was not entitled to penalties or attorney's fees.
The court explained that the worker's waiver did not deprive the court of jurisdiction to hear further issues in the case. The court also concluded that the worker waived his right to seek penalties by filing the waiver required by the settlement procedure. The court found no ambiguity in the language and read it as a full waiver of any and all rights given to workers in the workers' compensation system, including penalties and attorney's fees.
The court said that if the legislature intended to limit the language of the release to those liabilities that were "on account of the injury," it would have said so in the release statement required by the statute. The court explained that workers can not deliver the release or stipulate to dismissing the case until after the lump sum payment is received.
A dissenting judge opined that the waiver was limited to liabilities that were considered "on account of the injury." The judge said that a waiting-time penalty was not "on account of the injury." The judge also opined that the majority opinion would allow an employer to indefinitely delay payment.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
August 26, 2013
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