Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Claimant-appellant Jimmy Christy, Jr. appealed an Idaho Industrial Commission that found him ineligible for unemployment benefits based upon a willful underreporting of earnings to the Idaho Department of Labor. The appeals examiner heard testimony during a hearing, including Christy’s testimony that despite attending high school, he had problems with numbers and did not read well. The Industrial Commission found that Christy’s explanations resolved only part of the discrepancies revealed by a cross-match audit. The Industrial Commission entered its decision finding that Christy had willfully misstated material facts in his weekly earnings reports to IDOL and found him ineligible for unemployment benefits for each of the weeks that earnings were willfully misrepresented. The Industrial Commission also imposed civil penalties and interest. Christy filed a timely notice of appeal to this Court. Finding no reversible error in the Industrial Commission's decision, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Christy v. Grasmick Produce" on Justia Law

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Steven Andrews filed for workers’ compensation benefits after he fell from a ladder in 2009 while working for the Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS Church). Andrews sought to establish that the Idaho Industrial Special Indemnity Fund (ISIF) was liable pursuant to Idaho Code section 72- 332. The referee concluded that Andrews failed to show that ISIF was liable because the evidence showed that any pre-existing physical impairments did not constitute a subjective hindrance and that Andrews failed to show that his pre-existing impairments combined with the industrial accident to cause his total and permanent disability. The Commission adopted the recommendation. Andrews timely appealed, arguing that the Commission’s order was not supported by substantial and competent evidence. Not persuaded by Andrews’ arguments, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Andrews v. Idaho Industrial Special Indemnity Fund" on Justia Law

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Leticia Salinas injured her back while working for Bridgeview Estates (“Employer”). After receiving medical treatment for roughly six weeks, her workers’ compensation benefits were temporarily denied by Old Republic Insurance Company. Nearly two years later, Salinas filed a claim for reimbursement for medical costs and all future medical care. The Idaho Industrial Commission concluded that Salinas failed to prove that she was entitled to payment of compensation. Notwithstanding that conclusion, the Commission awarded Salinas attorney’s fees. The Employer appealed the award. The Supreme Court concluded the Commission erred in awarding attorney’s fees, and vacated the judgment. View "Salinas v. Bridgeview Estates" on Justia Law

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Enrique Lopez appeals an order of the Idaho Industrial Commission (“Industrial Commission”) declining to award him additional workman’s compensation income benefits for binaural hearing loss he sustained as a result of a workplace accident. Lopez was injured by a bull while working on a dairy. Lopez complained to the Industrial Commission that he was entitled to additional income benefits based on his interpretation of the statutory schedule for permanent impairments in Idaho Code section 72-428. The Industrial Commission disagreed, holding that Lopez was only entitled to the 8% impairment benefits previously paid. Lopez timely appealed. Finding no error in the Commission’s calculation of Lopez’ income benefits for his partial binaural hearing loss, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Lopez v. Vanbeek Herd Partnership" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from an Industrial Commission (the Commission) order denying medical care benefits to Channel Rish. Rish worked as a cashier at Home Depot. While working on October 30, 2005, Rish slipped on a floor mat and injured her right knee. The injury ultimately required Rish to undergo three knee surgeries, which Dr. Casey Huntsman performed in 2005, 2006, and 2007. Roughly three months after Rish’s third surgery, Dr. Huntsman concluded Rish had achieved maximum medical improvement (MMI). Dr. Huntsman, however, further noted that Rish “definitely needs . . . continued pain management” with Dr. Holly Zoe. To that end, Rish visited Dr. Zoe for pain management treatment. Respondents remained skeptical as to Rish’s continued medical care with Dr. Zoe. Rish filed a worker’s compensation complaint to seek past and future disability benefits and medical care. Respondents answered and conceded Rish was entitled to the already-paid disability benefits and medical care, but Respondents disputed whether she was entitled to additional disability benefits and medical care. After a hearing, the Commission held in Respondents’ favor. The Commission noted that Rish did not timely raise the issue of disability benefits, but concluded Rish was nevertheless entitled to no additional disability benefits. Further, the Commission concluded Rish was entitled to no additional medical care benefits because the medical care Rish received after August 9, 2007 (the date when Dr. Huntsman deemed her at MMI) was unreasonable. Rish appealed. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the Commission erred in holding that the medical care Rish received after August 9, 2007 was unreasonable. As such, the Court vacated the Commission’s denial of medical care benefits and remanded for further proceedings. View "Rish v. Home Depot" on Justia Law

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Claimant Gary Davis, employer Hammack Management, Inc., surety the Idaho State Insurance Fund, and the Idaho Industrial Special Indemnity Fund (“ISIF”) entered into a compensation agreement (“Stipulation”). The parties agreed that Claimant became totally and permanently disabled based on the combined effects of preexisting impairments and a workplace injury that occurred in 2004. The Stipulation outlined each party’s financial obligations to Claimant, including a credit to Employer for permanent partial impairment benefits previously paid. The Idaho Industrial Commission (“Commission”) approved the Stipulation. Subsequently, the Idaho Supreme Court issued its decision in “Corgatelli v. Steel West, Inc.,” (335 P.3d 1150 (2014)), prohibiting such a credit. Claimant then sought a declaratory ruling that the credit in the Stipulation was void. The Commission issued an order stating that the Stipulation was binding as written and subsequently denied Claimant’s motion for reconsideration. Claimant appealed. The Supreme Court concluded the credit in the Stipulation was invalid and the Commission’s order approving the Stipulation was void. The Court affirmed the Industrial Commission’s holding that it had subject matter jurisdiction over the Claimant’s petition for declaratory ruling but reversed its order upholding the Stipulation and the credit. View "Davis v. Hammack Mgmt." on Justia Law

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Appellants, Consolidated Farms LLC, dba Elk Mountain Farms (“Employer”), and Indemnity Insurance Company of North America, appealed an Idaho Industrial Commission’s finding that Respondent Rodrigo Rodriguez was totally and permanently disabled under the odd-lot doctrine. In addition to his work for the Employer’s farm in irrigation, Rodriguez also helped operate and maintain the machinery used in the harvesting process. Rodriguez, who was right handed, was attempting to clear dirt and other debris from a conveyor belt using a cutting hook. As Rodriguez reached into the machine, the conveyor belt sped up, catching his arm. The machine crushed Rodriguez’s right hand and forearm, breaking numerous bones and causing extensive damage to his nerves and tendons. Following his injury, Rodriguez underwent six surgeries and extensive physical therapy in order to regain limited use of his arm. Rodriguez’s employment was seasonal. Each year he was required to sign a waiver acknowledging that his employment was “Temporary” rather than “Permanent” and that his employment would end at the conclusion of the growing season. For 21 years Rodriguez was rehired by Employer at the beginning of each season. For many of these seasons he was part of the “Core Group” of employees. Rodriguez filed a disability/medical benefits workers compensation complaint with the Idaho Industrial Commission. The Commission issued its findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order. It concluded that Rodriguez had suffered a disability of 57% whole person and was permanently disabled under the futility prong of the odd-lot doctrine. The Employer appealed. Finding no reversible error in the Commission’s decision, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Rodriguez v. Consolidated Farms, LLC" on Justia Law

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Joseph Maravilla and J.R. Simplot Company both appealed the Industrial Commission’s (Commission) Order on Petition for Declaratory Ruling. Maravilla was injured in an industrial accident while working for Simplot, and Simplot paid Maravilla’s worker’s compensation benefits for that injury. In a separate action, Maravilla brought suit against Idaho Industrial Contractors, Inc. (IIC), the contractor performing repairs on the area where Maravilla was injured. Maravilla and IIC settled the claim for $75,000 and Simplot claimed subrogation against Maravilla. In its order, the Commission ruled that Maravilla could have argued that Simplot was partly at fault for Maravilla’s industrial accident and that Simplot’s negligence, if proved, was not a bar to Simplot being reimbursed for worker’s compensation payments it had paid Maravilla. Simplot appealed the Commission’s decision that Maravilla’s settlement with IIC does not preclude Maravilla from attempting to prove Simplot’s negligence. Maravilla appealed the Commission’s ruling that Simplot was entitled to reimbursement even if Simplot’s negligence contributed to Maravilla’s injury. The Supreme Court, after its review, affirmed in part and reversed in part, finding that the Commission erred in its interpretation of the controlling case law in this matter: “The adoption of comparative negligence and the abrogation of joint and several liability do not affect the rationale behind the Liberty Mutual rule, let alone require its abandonment.” The Court affirmed in all other respects. View "Maravilla v. J. R. Simplot Co." on Justia Law

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In 2008, plaintiff Sharon Hammer began working as the City Administrator for the City of Sun Valley (City) pursuant to a written employment agreement. In 2011, DeWayne Briscoe defeated the incumbent mayor, Wayne Willich, in the mayoral election. The City’s council conducted a special executive session to discuss allegations of improper use of public funds and equipment by plaintiff. The following day, her husband, an attorney, sent a letter to Mayor Willich threatening litigation. The City placed the Plaintiff on paid administrative leave, and three days later her husband filed a lawsuit on her behalf against the City and members of city government. Following an investigation, Plaintiff resumed her duties, and no disciplinary action was taken. In early 2012, Briscoe was sworn in as the mayor. The next day, he placed Plaintiff on paid administrative leave and notified her of another investigation. Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed her pending lawsuit against the City and members of city government. A few days after dismissing her case, Plaintiff was terminated from employment based upon the unanimous vote of the Mayor and city council. Plaintiff brought another lawsuit seeking to recover under the Idaho Protection of Public Employees Act. The district court ruled that the Plaintiff had waived her claim against the City of Sun Valley pursuant to a release she had signed, and that the Act did not provide a cause of action against City officials. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hammer v. City of Sun Valley" on Justia Law

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Appellants Ronnel Barrett, Gregg Hammerberg, Eric Tester, and Matthew Williams were injured in a rock burst in 2011, and sued Hecla Mining Company, owner and operator of the Lucky Friday Mine. Appellants contended that Hecla knew the mine was unsafe and knowingly placed Appellants in danger of harm. Appellants claimed that such behavior constituted an act of “willful or unprovoked physical aggression” that was not exclusively covered by the Idaho Worker’s Compensation Act (IWCA). On cross motions for summary judgment, the district court ruled that because there was no evidence that Hecla specifically intended to harm Appellants, the claims were controlled exclusively by the IWCA. On that ground, the court granted summary judgment in favor of Hecla. On appeal, Appellants argued that the district court erred in its determination that the IWCA exclusively governed their claims. Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Barrett v. Hecla Mining Co" on Justia Law