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WCB App Div Vacates Benefit Award

The Maine WCB Appellate Division has recently issued a decision vacating an award of benefits, because the Administrative Law Judge first declined to consolidate claims on two injuries to the same body part, but he then issued a decision on both injuries. The AD panel remanded the case back to the judge and ordered him to consolidated the petitions for further hearing and decision.

In Brian Jones v. Shaw’s Supermarkets, Mr. Jones originally injured his wrist at work in 2000 but missed only a week of work before returning to his regular job. In 2013, Jones sought additional medical care for his wrist, stating that it had “worsened” over the years. Shaw’s sent Mr. Jones to its designated medical provider, Dr. Upham, who found that Mr. Jones had gradually injured his wrist at work back in 2008. Shaw's declined to pay benefits voluntarily and obtained a supplemental report from Dr. Upham that Mr. Jones had denied having had any past trauma to his wrist.

Mr. Jones filed petitions on only the 2008 injury. At the hearing, Mr. Jones testified about both the 2000 and the 2008 injuries. The next day, Mr. Jones filed petitions on the 2000 injury and asked Judge Stovall to consolidate them with the petitions on the 2008 injury. Shaw’s objected to consolidation, and Judge Stovall denied Mr. Jones’ consolidation request, but he then issued a decision denying the petitions on the 2000 injury but granting the petitions on the 2008 injury. Both parties appealed.

The Appellate Division found legal error in Judge Stovall deciding the petitions on the 2000 injury after previously denying the motion to consolidate those petitions with the petitions already pending on the 2008 injury. The panel referred to 39-A MRS §318, which requires the judge to “hear those witnesses as may be presented,” but it did not specify what part of that statute Judge Stovall violated. The panel also vacated Judge Stovall’s decision granting the petitions on 2008 injury, holding that he should have consolidated them with the later petitions on the earlier injury, and he should have produced additional findings of fact and conclusions of law as both parties had requested.

If you have any questions, please let us know.

Thomas Getchell
Daniel Gilligan
Michael Richards
Attorneys at Law