from the Industrial Commission of the State of Idaho.
decision of the Commission is affirmed. Costs on appeal are
awarded to Austin.
Gardner Law Office, Boise, attorneys for Appellants. Michael
& Beck Law Offices, Pocatello, attorneys for Respondent.
Joel A. Beck argued.
Nature of the Case
a worker's compensation case. The dispute is whether
Brent Austin filed a timely complaint for additional benefits
with the Idaho Industrial Commission when it was filed more
than a year after his employer, Bio Tech Nutrients, and its
surety, Employers Compensation Insurance Company,
(collectively "Defendants") stopped paying
worker's compensation benefits. The Commission held that
the one-year statute of limitations to file a complaint was
tolled because the Defendants did not send a Notice of Claim
Status ("NOCS") when they submitted Austin's
final payment; as such, the Commission concluded Austin's
complaint was timely filed. We affirm.
Factual and Procedural Background
November 20, 2008, Austin was injured in the course of his
employment with Bio Tech Nutrients. Austin received medical
treatment from November 21, 2008, through June 20, 2014. From
June 9, 2012, through July 18, 2014, Austin received
temporary total disability ("TTD") benefits. On
June 20, 2014, Dr. Fellars performed an independent medical
evaluation and determined Austin had reached maximum medical
18, 2014, Defendants sent a NOCS to Austin that informed him
his TTD benefits would stop immediately because of Dr.
Fellars' determination Austin had reached maximum medical
improvement. Even so, the NOCS explained that Dr. Fellars
rated Austin's permanent partial impairment
("PPI") at 11% of the whole person, which
correlated to $18, 694.50. The Defendants were to make
bi-weekly payments beginning August 1, 2014, until the award
was paid in full. The NOCS also included the disclaimer that
"[t]his impairment rating does not settle your
claim. However, MMI [Maximum Medical Improvement] means no
further treatment is recommended which is likely to improve
your industrial condition." (Emphasis in original). A
copy of Dr. Fellars' medical report was attached to the
July 18, 2014, NOCS.
what was said in the NOCS, Austin's PPI benefits began on
July 19, 2014, and continued until June 22, 2015, when the
Surety issued Austin a check for $2, 379.30. The remittance
advice attached to this check indicated a payment description
of "Permanent Partial Scheduled/Impairment" and
included a comment of "PPI Final Payment." The June
22, 2015, check cleared the Surety's bank on July 10,
2015. The Defendants did not send Austin, nor file with the
Commission, any NOCS or other written form of notice about
Austin's "final payment" of PPI benefits.
20, 2016, Austin filed a worker's compensation complaint
seeking medical benefits for chronic pain treatment, another
surgery, and TTD benefits. In the complaint Austin also
reserved the right to bring claims for additional PPI and
permanent partial disability ("PPD") benefits after
reaching maximum medical improvement. On July 26, 2016,
Defendants filed an answer and asserted that Austin's
complaint was barred by the statute of limitations of Idaho
Code section 72-706(3).
proceedings were bifurcated and the parties submitted the
sole issue of whether Austin's complaint was timely filed
with the Commission. The crux of the issue was whether the
Defendants had to provide a new NOCS with Austin's final
payment. The Commission referred the matter to a Referee.
Austin argued that the statute of limitations was tolled
pursuant to Idaho Code section 72-604 because Defendants
failed to file a NOCS as required by section 72-806. The
Referee recommended that Austin's complaint was not
timely. The Referee determined the Defendants did not have to
send Austin a NOCS with his final payment for PPI benefits
because his level of benefits did not change; the benefits
simply went from being prospective to being realized. The
Referee concluded that since no notice was required, the
tolling provisions of Idaho Code section 72-604 did not
apply, and Austin's complaint was untimely because it was
filed more than a year after he received his last payment of
Commission declined to adopt the Referee's recommendation
and entered its own findings of fact, conclusions of law, and
order in which it concluded that Austin's complaint was
timely filed. The Commission held that Idaho Code section
72-806 required the Defendants to submit a NOCS with the last
check for Austin's PPI payments, and that its failure to
do so tolled the one-year statute of limitations based on the
provisions of section 72-604. The Defendants filed a motion
for reconsideration, which the Commission denied. The
Defendants filed a permissive appeal to this Court.
Issues on Appeal
Whether the Commission erred when it held the Defendants were
required to provide a NOCS when Austin's final PPI
payment was issued.
Whether the Commission erred in determining that the
Defendants' failure to issue a NOCS when Austin's
payments were terminated constituted a ...