BIFURCATION CAN RESULT IN AN EARLY FINAL APPEALABLE ORDER
Belcher-Robinson Foundry, LLC v. Narr
On January 29, 2010, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals released this opinion wherein it considered whether or not an Order generated as the result of a bifurcated compensability hearing was final and appealable. Following an adverse ruling on the issue of compensability, the employer filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus. The Court of Appeals treated the Petition for Writ of Mandamus as an appeal seeking review of a final and appealable judgment.
The employee had sought to bifurcate the case. If an employee’s claim is denied and indemnity or medical benefits are not being paid, the employee has the option of asking the judge to bifurcate (split) the case into two parts. The compensability part is tried first so that the employee can receive the benefits as soon as possible. The extent of injury part is tried on a later date after the employee is placed at MMI. If the trial court only rules on compensability and awards no other relief the judgment is not final and the only relief would be by Petition for Writ of Mandamus.
At the trial level, the Court ruled that the injury was compensable and the employer owed medical expenses and temporary total disability benefits. The Court of Appeals held that because the Court additionally ruled on temporary total disability, as will as medical benefits, the Order was final and appealable.
If your case is bifurcated and, in addition to the issue of compensability, the judge also rules on TTD and medical benefits, you have 42 days to appeal from the date of the Order. If you miss that window of opportunity, you will be forever precluded from appealing the issue of compensability.