Opinion No. 158
from the Industrial Commission.
order of the Industrial Commission is affirmed in part and
reversed in part.
Shoufler Miller Johnson, LLP, Boise, for appellant. Daniel A.
Racine, Olson, Nye, Budge & Bailey, Chtd., Pocatello, for
respondent. Fred J. Lewis argued.
NATURE OF THE CASE
Jerry Maravilla and J.R. Simplot Company both appeal the
Industrial Commission's (Commission) August 11, 2015
Order on Petition for Declaratory Ruling. Maravilla was
injured in an industrial accident while working for Simplot,
and Simplot paid Maravilla's worker's compensation
benefits for that injury. In a separate action, Maravilla
brought suit against Idaho Industrial Contractors, Inc.
(IIC), the contractor performing repairs on the area where
Maravilla was injured. Maravilla and IIC settled the claim
for $75, 000 and Simplot claimed subrogation against
Maravilla. In its order, the Commission ruled that Maravilla
could argue that Simplot was partly at fault for
Maravilla's industrial accident and that Simplot's
negligence, if proved, was not a bar to Simplot being
reimbursed for worker's compensation payments it had paid
appeals the Commission's decision that Maravilla's
settlement with IIC does not preclude Maravilla from
attempting to prove Simplot's negligence. Maravilla
appeals the Commission's ruling that Simplot is entitled
to reimbursement even if Simplot's negligence contributed
to Maravilla's injury. We affirm in part and reverse in
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
October 16, 2011, Maravilla, while working at Simplot,
tripped on a hose that had been placed across a walkway to
transport a water/acid mix to a nearby pump. The water/acid
mixture was being transported because repairs were being
performed on a nearby sulfuric acid pad. The repairs were
being performed by IIC, however, the hose had been placed by
Simplot. On the day of the accident, a rainstorm had caused a
power outage at the sulfuric acid pad causing acid to pool on
the pad. Upon tripping, Maravilla's foot went through a
plastic barrier erected by IIC and into the pooling acid.
Maravilla suffered chemical burns to his right foot and leg,
which later required skin grafts and surgery. Maravilla then
filed a worker's compensation claim. Simplot, in its
capacity as a self-insured employer, paid out an undisclosed
amount of worker's compensation benefits.
February 6, 2013, Maravilla filed a third-party lawsuit
against IIC. Maravilla alleged that his injuries were caused
by the negligence of IIC. Simplot did not participate in this
litigation. At some point before trial, Maravilla and IIC
settled the claim for $75, 000. The district court then
dismissed the complaint with prejudice on January 22, 2015.
Thereafter, Simplot sought subrogation against the $75, 000
1, 2015, Maravilla filed a petition for declaratory ruling
with the Commission. Maravilla contended that in accordance
with prior precedent, any negligence on the part of an
employer cuts off that employer's right to subrogation
under Idaho Code section 72-223. Simplot argued that as a
result of Idaho's adoption of comparative fault, an
employer's right to subrogation continues to exist even
if the employer is shown to have been partly at fault in
contributing to the employee's injury. Simplot also
argued that Maravilla was precluded from arguing
Simplot's negligence because he failed to do so during
the third-party litigation with IIC.
August 11, 2015, the Commission issued its order. The
Commission rejected Simplot's claim preclusion argument
but adopted a new rule regarding employer's subrogation
rights. The new rule, based on the fact that joint and
several liability has been abolished in Idaho, states that
"employer's negligence is no longer an absolute bar
to the exercise of its right of subrogation. Rather, an
employer's right of subrogation will be reduced by its
proportionate share of fault in contributing to
timely appeals from the Commission's order with respect
to the claim preclusion issue. Maravilla cross-appeals with
respect to the Commission's adoption of the new employer
STANDARD OF REVIEW
facts pertinent to this appeal are not in dispute, only the
legal conclusions drawn from those facts, therefore, we
exercise free review. Kelly v. Blue Ribbon Linen Supply,
Inc., 159 Idaho 324, 326, 360 P.3d 333, 335 (2015).
Maravilla is not barred from raising the issue of