Maine Hospital Worker Doesn't Establish Tolling on Statute of Limitation Application

14 Mar, 2023 Frank Ferreri

                               

Augusta, ME (WorkersCompensation.com) -- Statutes of limitations can prevent workers' compensation claims from going forward after a certain period of time, but sometimes, circumstances allow that period to be extended.

As the recent Maine case Farrell v. MaineGeneral Health, No. 22-0002 (Me. W.C.B. App. Div. 03/06/23) shows, the evidence for what triggers "tolling" of a limitation period must meet statutory requirements.

A hospital worker experienced a compensable work injury to her neck, low back, and right shoulder while on the job. She was awarded partial incapacity benefits in the amount of $4.13 per week, which was based on the worker’s average weekly wage at the time and an imputed full-time earning capacity at minimum wage. 

The worker continued to receive treatment and later filed a petition for review seeking an increase in benefits, and her petition was successful. 

Later, the hospital filed notices of controversy to dispute claimed medical expenses. Although the case was mediated, no agreement was reached, and the hospital did not resume paying medical expenses. The worker filed a petition for award, seeking payment of medical expenses and resumption of wage loss benefits. Following a hearing, an administrative law judge determined that the state’s six-year statute of limitations barred the worker’s claim. 

The worker appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Board’s Appellate Division. 

Under Maine law, when an employer pays benefits under the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act, claims are barred unless they are filed within six years from the most recent payment. There are some provisions of the law that “toll” or extend that limitations period, as the law spells out: 

Statute of Limitations 

A petition is barred unless filed within two years after the date of injury or the date the employee’s employer files a first report of injury, whichever is later. 

Payment of Benefits  

If an employer or insurer pays benefits, the period during which an employee or other interested party must file a petition is six years from the date of the most recent payment.   

The provision of medical care for an injury or illness by or under the supervision of a health care provider employed by, or under contract with, the employer is a payment of benefits with respect to that injury or illness if:
  • Care was provided for that injury or illness on 6 or more occasions in the 12-month period after the initial treatment; and  
  • The employer or the health care provider knew or should have known that the injury or illness was work-related.  

Physical or Mental Incapacity 

If an employee is unable to file a petition because of physical or mental incapacity, the period of that incapacity is not included in the limitation period. 

In this case, the worker argued that the limitations period was tolled because she received Social Security benefits at the time she claimed her benefits were due. 

The Appellate Division disagreed, since the hospital was under no obligation to pay workers’ compensation benefits at the time the worker received Social Security disability payments. Thus, there was no offset to be taken, and the tolling provisions that the worker attempted to invoke did not apply. 

As a result, the Appellate Division upheld the ALJ’s ruling in the hospital’s favor. 

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    About The Author

    • Frank Ferreri

      Frank Ferreri, M.A., J.D. covers workers' compensation legal issues. He has published books, articles, and other material on multiple areas of employment, insurance, and disability law. Frank received his master's degree from the University of South Florida and juris doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Frank encourages everyone to consider helping out the Kind Souls Foundation and Kids' Chance of America.

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