APPEAL FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASE NO. 2015-CA-000993-WC
WORKERS' COMPENSATION BOARD NO. 13-WC-00273
COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Andy Beshear Attorney General of
Kentucky James Robert Carpenter Assistant Attorney General.
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, ISAIAS SILVA-LAMAS: Charles E. Jennings
Joy Buchenberger Jennings Law Offices Jose Acahua, Pro se,
Luis Lopez, Pro se.
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that Isaias Silva-Lamas
became permanently and totally disabled as a result of a
work-related injury that he suffered while employed by Luis
Lopez, an uninsured employer. Those findings are not
disputed. However, the Uninsured Employers Fund (UEF)
contests whether Lopez was properly notified of
Silva-Lamas's claim. The ALJ, the Workers'
Compensation Board (the Board), and the Court of Appeals held
that notice was properly given. We agree and affirm.
April 11, 2012, Silva-Lamas, who was a month away from his
29thbirthday, was working as a brick mason's
helper when he fell from a ladder and suffered multiple
cervical fractures. As a result, Silva-Lamas has no use of
his legs, very limited use of his arms, and little to no use
of his hands. In his initial application for resolution of
injury claim, Silva-Lamas named Jose Acahua as his employer.
Acahua did not have any workers' compensation insurance;
therefore, the Chief ALJ joined the UEF as a party.
the course of discovery, the parties determined that, at the
time of his injury, Silva-Lamas was working on a house owned
by Barry Chaney. Chaney and his wife decided to put a
"brick and wood" porch on the back of their house.
Chaney hired a contractor named Timberwolf to perform the
framing and carpentry, and he intended to hire his
brother-in-law, Stonie Newsome, to perform the masonry work.
However, by the time Timberwolf completed its part of the
construction, Newsome was too busy with other projects to do
the masonry work. Therefore, Newsome had one of his
employees, Jose Acahua, contact Luis Lopez to see if Lopez
could do the work. Following some negotiations, Lopez agreed
to do the work, and he enlisted Silva-Lamas and two others to
assist him. Acahua did not perform any work on the job but
acted as an interpreter among Lopez, his helpers, and Chaney,
and Acahua apparently handled some of the monetary
transactions between Chaney and Lopez, who acted as the
"boss" on the job.
on the preceding evidence, Silva-Lamas moved to join Newsome
and Lopez as defendant/employers. The ALJ denied
Silva-Lamas's motion as to Newsome but granted it as to
Lopez and sent a copy of the joinder order to Lopez by
first-class mail. Following the ALJ's joinder order,
Silva-Lamas filed a second Application for Resolution of
Injury Claim, naming Lopez as his employer. The Commissioner
of the Department of Workers' Claims (the DWC), pursuant
to 803 KAR 25:010 Section 3, sent a copy of that application
to Lopez via first class mail. The postal service returned
that mailing stamped "undeliverable." Because it
appeared that Lopez never received notice of the claim, the
UEF contested the DWC's jurisdiction to proceed against
him, and by extension, against the UEF. The ALJ rejected the
UEF's argument, finding that, because Silva-Lamas had
done all that was required of him to file his claim, the DWC
had jurisdiction over Lopez.
appealed to the Board, which affirmed, agreeing with the ALJ
that Silva-Lamas acted appropriately pursuant to 803 KAR
25:010 in filing his claim. The Board also found that the DWC
acted appropriately pursuant to the regulation by serving the
application on Lopez via first class mail. The UEF then
sought review by. the Court of Appeals, which affirmed.
did below, the UEF argues that, pursuant to Kentucky Revised
Statute (KRS) 342.135, the commissioner of the DWC was
required to serve notice of Silva-Lamas's claim by
registered mail. According to the UEF, the commissioner's
failure to do so deprived the ALJ of jurisdiction over Lopez
and, by extension, over the UEF. For the reasons set forth
below, we disagree and affirm, albeit for different reasons
than those expressed by the Board and the Court of Appeals.
STANDARD OF REVIEW.
general rule, we grant deference to the findings of an ALJ;
however, when the issue is purely a question of law, as this
is, We review the matter de novo. See Saint Joseph Hosp.
v. Frye, 415 S.W.3d 631, 632 (Ky. 2013).
342.270(1] states that, if the parties fail to reach an
agreement as to compensation, "either party may make
written application for resolution of claim." 803 KAR
25:010 Section 3(2) provided at the time that the application
. had to be "filed [with the DWC] with sufficient copies
for service on all parties."Once an application is filed,
the commissioner of the DWC is required to "issue notice
of the filing to all parties and" to "promptly
assign the claim to an administrative law judge." KRS
342.270(2). Pursuant to 803 KAR 25:010 Section 3(2), the
commissioner then serves the application "by first class
UEF notes, the service provision of the preceding regulation
appears to be at odds with KRS 342.135, which states in
pertinent part that:
Any notice required to be given under this chapter shall be
considered properly given and served when deposited in the
mail in a registered letter or package properly stamped and
addressed to the person to whom notice is to be given at his
last known address and in time to reach him in due time to
act thereon. Notice may also be given and served like notices
in civil actions.
argues that KRS 342.135 requires that notice of a claim be
served on the employer by registered mail, and that the DWC
did not have jurisdiction over Lopez because the Commissioner
failed to serve Lopez by registered mail. However, the
UEF's interpretation of KRS 342.135 is faulty for two
the first sentence of KRS 342.135 states that notice given or
served by registered mail is deemed adequate. That sentence
does not state it is mandatory for notice to be given or
served by registered mail or that registered mail is the only
method by which notice may be given or served. If the General
Assembly had wanted registered mail to be the only acceptable
method to give or serve notice, it would have made that
method mandatory; which leads us to the second reason the
UEF's interpretation is faulty.
presume that the General Assembly intended for the statute to
be construed as a whole, and for all of its parts to have
meaning. Hall v. Hospitality Resources, Inc., 276
S.W.3d 775 (Ky.20Q8); Lewis v. Jackson Energy Cooperative
Corporation, 189 S.W.3d 87 (Ky.2005). Looking at KRS
342.135 as a whole, it is clear that the General Assembly
intended to provide two methods for notices to be given or
served. The first is by registered mail, the second is
pursuant to whatever method the civil rules deem adequate. We
cannot, by adopting the UEF's interpretation, simply
negate this second method by which notice may be given or
argues that this Court's opinion in Nat. Resources.
& Environmental Protection Cabinet v. Pinnacle Coal
Corp.,729 S.W.2d 438 (Ky. 1987) is on "all
fours" with this matter. The UEF is mistaken. In
Pinnacle, the Cabinet, pursuant to a regulation,
served Pinnacle's attorney with the hearing officer's
final report. Id. Pinnacle contested the adequacy of
that service, noting that the relevant statute required
service on the party, not on its attorney. Id. The
Cabinet argued that service was adequate because it complied
with the regulation, which required service on a represented
party's attorney rather than on the party. Id.
The Court held that service by the Cabinet was not adequate
because the statute, not the regulation, controlled.
Id. at 439. Unlike the statute at issue in
Pinnacle, which made ...