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Barrios v. Zing LLC

Supreme Court of Idaho

August 24, 2017

JOSUE BARRIOS, Claimant-Respondent,
v.
ZING LLC, Employer, and IDAHO STATE INSURANCE FUND, Surety, Defendants-Appellants.

         2017 Opinion No. 92

         Appeal from the Industrial Commission of the State of Idaho.

         The order of the Industrial Commission is affirmed.

          Matthew C. Parks, Elam & Burke PA, Boise, argued for appellants.

          Richard S. Owen, Owen and Farney PLLC, Nampa, argued for respondent.

          EISMANN, JUSTICE.

         This is an appeal from the order of the Industrial Commission requiring an employer and its surety to pay the cost of a guardian and a conservator for a claimant who suffered a severe, traumatic brain injury as a result of an industrial accident, which left him unable to care for himself. We affirm the order of the Commission.

         I. Factual Background.

         While employed by Zing LLC, Josue Barrios ("Claimant") was totally and permanently disabled as a result of an industrial accident when he fell about twelve feet from a ladder and hit his head face first on a concrete floor. He suffered multiple facial fractures, a frontal bone fracture, the loss of sight in his left eye, and a severe traumatic brain injury that caused a major neurocognitive disorder and speech language deficits.

         It is undisputed that Claimant is unable to care for himself as a result of his injuries. At the time of the hearing, he was living in a home certified by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The person operating that home speaks Spanish, which is the only language that Claimant speaks. Claimant's treating physician recommended that a guardian and a conservator be appointed for him. In making this recommendation, the physician wrote:

He requires a professional guardian of the person, and a professional conservator of the estate per the Idaho Probate code. He is unable to plan, advocate, or care for himself in the medical, personal and financial areas of his life due to his cognitive issues and closed head injury sequelae. . . . . The appointment of a guardian and of a conservator for Mr. Barrios is medically necessary due to the traumatic brain injury, which robs him of his ability to make cogent decisions about his medical treatment and about his financial affairs, and which requires the appointment of a guardian and of a conservator to make those decisions and to manage his financial affairs.

         Proceedings were instituted to accomplish that recommendation, and the magistrate court in Ada County appointed a guardian and a conservator for Claimant. His employer and the Idaho State Insurance Fund (both herein called "Surety") refused to pay the fees charged by the guardian and conservator, contending that such expenses were not compensable under Idaho Code section 72-432. The Industrial Commission considered that legal issue and held that Surety were responsible for the payment of the fees and expenses of the guardian and the conservator. Surety then timely appealed.

         II.

         Did the Commission Err in Holding that the Fees and Expenses of a Guardian and Conservator Are Compensable under Idaho Code section 72-432(1)?

         "The interpretation of a statute is an issue of law over which we exercise free review." State v. Maidwell, 137 Idaho 424, 426, 50 P.3d 439, 441 (2002). Idaho Code section 72-432(1) states insofar as is relevant, "[T]he employer shall provide for an injured employee such reasonable medical, surgical or other attendance or treatment, nurse and hospital services, medicines, crutches and apparatus, as may be reasonably required by the employee's physician or needed immediately after an ...


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