Boyd & Jenerette has recently been successful in obtaining favorable rulings for our clients using an often underutilized tool in claims arising under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act: the motion for summary decision under 29 CFR § 18.72. As in state civil and workers’ compensation claims, summary decision can result in obviating the need for trial when there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to decision as a matter of law.
In one such case, John Woods v. Harry Pepper & Associates, Inc., 2018-LHC-584 Blake Hood, Esq. obtained a favorable ruling from Administrative Law Judge Patrick M. Rosenow in a case involving a claimant’s attempt to set aside a settlement that had been approved by way of an 8(i) Application for Settlement over 8 years ago. The parties, both represented at the time, reached a routine settlement in 2010, and the claimant cashed the settlement checks at that time only to resurface in 2015 alleging that everyone from the attorneys, District Director, and Claims Examiner conspired against him in tricking him to enter into the settlement. Mr. Hood filed a motion for summary decision on behalf of the Employer arguing that the claimant’s attempt to undo the settlement was untimely, that the settlement application was complete when settled, and that even if the claimant’s factual allegations were accepted as true, equity did not justify reopening the case. This was especially true in light of the fact that the claimant claimed at one point that he never received the settlement funds only to later admit that he did. Noting the claimant’s unclean hands, the ALJ ruled in favor of the Employer.
In another case, Romel Johnson v. Ports America, Inc., 2016-LHC-00496, Mark Eckels, Esq. obtained an order granting his motion for summary decision by arguing that a claimant was not injured in the course and scope of his employment. At the time of his accident, the claimant was leaving the port at Blount Island in his personal vehicle and was struck by a train after being given the “all clear,” meaning there was nothing further needed to complete his tasks for the Employer. Mr. Eckels successfully argued that the going and coming rule precluded compensability, as there was no dispute that the claimant was traveling away from work when the accident occurred. The claimant contended that the “emergency call” exception applied, thus making his accident compensable, as he was subject to recall to finish, correct or assist in his job. However, the ALJ relied upon the case law cited in the Employer’s motion holding that merely being on an on-call status is insufficient to confer coverage and that there were no other factors that justified finding the accident compensable.
Employer/Carriers and their counsel should keep this procedural tool in mind as a way to possibly avoid the time and expense required to take a case to trial.