What the Alabama Employer Knows may Determine how the Occupational Disease Claim Goes
On October 16, 2015, The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals released its opinion in Anita Martin v. Austal USA, LLC. At the trial court level, the judge granted the employers motion for summary judgment based on the applicable statute of limitations. It being an occupational disease case, the two year statute of limitations in which to file a lawsuit would have started to run on (1) the date of last exposure or (2) the date of the last indemnity payment, whichever is later. It was undisputed by the parties that the date of last exposure was the last day worked and, using that date, the statute would have definitely expired. However, the employee received employer sponsored short term disability benefits while she was out of work. The employee argued that said benefits constituted indemnity payments that served to toll the statute of limitations. The employee cited to a case where the court held payment for injury days and full pay for less than full work constituted indemnity payments.
On appeal, the Court of Civil Appeals distinguished the case relied upon by the employee by noting that the employer in that case was aware that the employee was making a workers’ compensation claim. In the instant case, however, there was no evidence that the employer was aware that the employee was claiming a work related occupational disease at the time she was receiving her short term disability benefits. As a result, the Court affirmed the trial judge’s decision.
About the Author
This blog submission was prepared by Mike Fish, an attorney with Fish, Nelson & Holden, LLC, a law firm dedicated to representing self-insured employers, insurance carriers, and third party administrators in all matters related to workers’ compensation. Fish Nelson & Holden is a member of the National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network. If you have any questions about this submission or Alabama workers’ compensation in general, please contact Fish by e-mailing him firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling him directly at 205-332-1448.