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Bunn v. Heritage Safe Co.

March 17, 2010

QUINTON BUNN, CLAIMANT,
v.
HERITAGE SAFE COMPANY, EMPLOYER, AND LIBERTY NORTHWEST INSURANCE CORP., AND STATE OF IDAHO, INDUSTRIAL SPECIAL INDEMNITY FUND. DEFENDANT. SURETY,



Appeal from the Idaho Industrial Commission.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Jones, Justice.

2010 Opinion No. 28

The decision of the Industrial Commission is affirmed.

Quinton Bunn appeals the Industrial Commission's denial of his claim for workers' compensation benefits because it was not timely filed. We affirm.

I.

Quinton Bunn was hired by Heritage Safe Company (Heritage) on March 14, 2005. On April 25, 2005, Bunn began working as a lock installer, a job that required the frequent twisting of his wrist as he inserted screws to fasten locks onto safes. On May 2, 2005, Bunn visited physician's assistant Brett Smith at the Lakeview Clinic after notifying Heritage that he was suffering from wrist pain. Bunn was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. Heritage sent a workers' compensation report to its surety, Liberty Northwest (Liberty), who in turn sent Bunn a letter on May 4, 2005, denying the claim.*fn1 After receiving further medical treatment, Bunn sent Liberty a letter on May 30, 2005, indicating that his injury was not carpal tunnel and asking Liberty to review its decision. Bunn received no response. During the next two years, Bunn received further treatment and surgery for his wrist problems, and on May 31, 2007, he filed a complaint with the Industrial Commission. Bunn argued that his complaint was timely filed because he was misled by Liberty within the meaning of Idaho Code section 72-706(1) and because Heritage furnished medical treatment under Idaho Code section 72-706(2). On October 10, 2008, the Industrial Commission issued its Order denying Bunn's coverage on the basis that his complaint was not timely filed. Bunn appealed to this Court.

II.

Bunn presented two issues on appeal: (1) whether a medical misdiagnosis invokes the tolling provisions of Idaho Code section 72-706(1); and (2) whether an employer's act of scheduling a doctor's appointment constitutes ―payments of compensation,‖ invoking the five-year statute of limitations in Idaho Code section 72-706(2).

III.

A.

When reviewing a decision of the Industrial Commission, the Court exercises free review over questions of law. Smith v. Idaho Dep't of Labor, 148 Idaho 72, 73, 218 P.3d 1133, 1134 (2009). This Court will not disturb findings of fact unless the findings are clearly erroneous. I.C. § 72-732; Smith, 148 Idaho at 73, 218 P.3d at 1134. Findings of fact are not clearly erroneous if they are supported by substantial and competent evidence. I.C. § 72-732; Smith, 148 Idaho at 73, 218 P.3d at 1134.

B.

Bunn first argues that the one-year statute of limitations in Idaho Code section 72-706(1)*fn2 does not apply because Liberty misled him to his prejudice. Bunn's argument boils down to a single legal question: whether Liberty's denial of Bunn's workers' compensation claim, which was based upon the Lakeview Clinic's misdiagnosis of Bunn's injury, misled Bunn, therefore tolling the statute of limitations in Idaho Code section 72-706(1).

Bunn's argument suffers from one fatal flaw-the tolling provision of Idaho Code section 72-706(1) is only invoked upon a finding that the claimant was ―misled to his prejudice by the employer or surety.‖ I.C. § 72-706(1) (emphasis added). In this case, Bunn was misled by his medical provider. The tardiness of Bunn's complaint was not the result of his reliance on information provided by Liberty, who denied Bunn's claim based upon the information it was provided by the ...


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