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Saint Joseph Hosp. v. Frye

Supreme Court of Kentucky

December 19, 2013

SAINT JOSEPH HOSPITAL, Appellant
v.
Angela FRYE; Appellees, Honorable R. Scott Borders, Administrative Law Judge; and Workers' Compensation Board.

Ronald Jude Pohl, Crystal Lynn Moore, Pohl, Kiser & Aubrey, P.S.C., Lexington, Counsel for Appellant.

Donald Richard Todd, Todd & Todd, PLLC, Counsel for Appellee.

OPINION

KELLER, Justice.

Angela Frye (Frye) filed a workers' compensation claim against Saint Joseph Hospital (St.Joseph) alleging that she suffered a work-related injury on April 23, 2009. The ALJ dismissed that claim pursuant to Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 342.270(1) finding that Frye should have, but did not, timely file and move to join it with a pending claim. The Workers' Compensation Board (the Board) reversed and the Court of Appeals affirmed the Board. St. Joseph appeals, arguing that the Board and the Court of Appeals erroneously interpreted KRS 342.270(1). However, we agree with the Court of Appeals and affirm.

I. FACTS

Frye suffered a work-related injury to her cervical and lumbar spine on January 3, 2008, while she was employed at St. Joseph. Following that injury, Frye continued to work at St. Joseph while she underwent medical treatment, which included injections and other pain management

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modalities. She last worked at St. Joseph on August 3, 2009.

Frye filed, and the parties litigated, a claim for benefits related to her January 3, 2008 injury (the 2008 claim). On April 9, 2009, an ALJ held a final hearing regarding that claim. Following the hearing, the ALJ set out a briefing schedule and stated that he would be taking the claim under submission on May 10, 2009. On June 2, 2009, the ALJ rendered an opinion, order, and award, awarding Frye income and medical expense benefits related to her cervical spine injury and medical expense benefits related to her lumbar spine injury. Neither party sought review of that opinion, order, and award.

On April 23, 2009, after the final hearing in the 2008 claim, but before the ALJ took that claim under submission or rendered an opinion, Frye fell at work, allegedly suffering a second injury to her lumbar spine. Frye filed a claim related to the April 2009 accident on April 20, 2010 (the 2010 claim), more than ten months after the ALJ rendered the opinion, order, and award related to her 2008 claim. After Frye filed her 2010 claim, St. Joseph filed a notice of claim denial arguing, in pertinent part, that any claim for benefits related to Frye's 2009 fall was barred pursuant to KRS 342.270(1). The parties presented proof on all issues and, following a hearing, the ALJ agreed with St. Joseph and dismissed Frye's 2010 claim as untimely filed. In doing so, the ALJ found that: Frye's April 2009 accident occurred while her 2008 claim was pending; Frye knew or should have known before the ALJ rendered his opinion in her 2008 claim that she had a cause of action related to the April 2009 accident; Frye was required by KRS 342.270(1) to file her claim for benefits related to the April 2009 accident and join it to her pending 2008 claim, which she failed to do. Therefore, the ALJ dismissed Frye's 2010 claim without otherwise addressing the merits of that claim.

Frye appealed the ALJ's opinion to the Board. The Board reversed the ALJ noting that the workers' compensation practice regulations do not provide a mechanism for reopening proof in a claim after a hearing has taken place. Based on that regulatory deficiency, the Board concluded that a claim is no longer pending, for KRS 342.270(1) purposes, after the date of the final hearing. Therefore, the Board concluded that the ALJ erred when he dismissed Frye's 2010 claim, and the Board remanded that claim to the ALJ for a decision on the merits. St. Joseph filed a petition for review with the Court of Appeals and the Court of Appeals affirmed the Board. This appeal followed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The issue presented concerns statutory interpretation, which is purely a question of law, which we review de novo. See Kentucky Employers Mut. Ins. ...


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