The trial court in Lewis v. Transit Management of Charlotte denied that request, and for reasons explained below, the appellate court affirmed this ruling.
According to court records, the plaintiff worked as a bus operator for the transit management department when he suffered what the defendant conceded was a compensable work-related injury in June 2009. That’s when the driver of a sport utility vehicle rear-ended the bus the plaintiff was driving. The plaintiff reported that injury to the commission. By November 2009, the plaintiff had reportedly reached maximum medical improvement, and, according to his treating physician, he had sustained 0 percent permanent impairment on his back. The plaintiff returned the form, and it was indicated he received up to that date $22,600 in compensation – including $8,800 in medical compensation.
Then, several years later, in 2014, the plaintiff filed a Form 18 notice of accident, asking for additional medical compensation based on the earlier accident. The defendant denied the claim, based on the statute of limitations. The plaintiff requested a hearing, asking for additional temporary total disability compensation. He claimed he was previously underpaid, based on a miscalculation of his average weekly wage, and also he needed additional medical treatment for his injuries.
The parties entered into a pretrial agreement before the hearing, stipulating that:
- The plaintiff’s last payment for medical compensation in this claim, for $250, was back in 2010;
- He settled his third-party lawsuit against the other driver in 2010;
- The transit company had accepted $11,500 in full as satisfaction of the workers’ compensation subrogation lien against the third party; and
- The defendant underpaid the plaintiff by about $900 over the course of 25 weeks.
A deputy commissioner weighed the case and initially considered only whether the plaintiff’s claim was time-barred. The deputy commissioner decided it was not. The defendant appealed before the full commission, which modified the deputy commissioner’s decision and award, determining that the defendant should have to pay $715 to correct the underpayment but that the request for additional medical treatment was time-bared by the two-year statutes of limitations, as outlined in N.C. Gen. Stat. 97.24.1.
The plaintiff appealed the portion of the ruling pertaining to the statute of limitations. The appellate court affirmed.
The plaintiff argued the statute of limitations had not expired because the “last” payment of medical compensation was paid in December 2015 – more than a year after the plaintiff filed his request – when the defendant made the last installment for underpaying him temporary total disability benefits.
However, the fatal flaw in this workers’ compensation case concerned what constitutes a “last payment.”
A similar case came before the court, in which the plaintiff received his last medical compensation check in July 2003 and then almost exactly four years later sought additional medical compensation. The defense cited the statute of limitations in its denial of the claim. On appeal, the justices considered a “straight-forward” reading of the statute. What this means is that the word “last” in the statute means the “last payment” – not some hypothetical future payment. And that’s essentially what the court was dealing with in this case, the justices ruled. There was no expectation that the plaintiff would be receiving some future “last” payment years down the road.
Therefore, the statute of limitations did bar the plaintiff’s claim for medical compensation.
Contact the Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Lewis v. Transit Management of Charlotte, Dec. 6, 2016, North Carolina Court of Appeals
More Blog Entries:
Spiller v. Travelers Property Casualty Co. – UIM Benefits Don’t Apply for Worker Not in Employer Vehicle, Nov. 23, 2016, Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog