Supreme Court allows personal estate to pursue Workers’ Compensation Claims
By: Steve Verotsky
Recently, the Oregon Supreme Court reversed the Workers’ Compensation Board and Court of Appeals and determined that a worker’s estate is authorized to pursue the hearing request to its final conclusion Gary D. Sather v. SAIF, 357 Or 122 (2015).
If a worker files a request for hearing and then dies before the matter is resolved, leaving no beneficiaries, the worker’s estate is authorized to pursue the hearing request to its final conclusion. In making this ruling, the court interpreted the word “person” in ORS 656.218(3) and (5) to include the worker’s “estate,” and interpreted the phrase “unpaid balance of the award” in subsection (5) to include an unresolved hearing request on a compensation issue.
The worker in this case filed a claim for a low back injury. SAIF accepted a strain but the worker requested that the acceptance be expanded to include a combined condition. SAIF denied the combined condition claim and the worker requested a hearing. The ALJ and the Board upheld the denial. The worker’s attorney filed a petition for judicial review with the Court of Appeals. Shortly after the appeal was filed, the worker passed away.
SAIF moved to dismiss judicial review due to the worker’s death and the worker’s attorney sought to substitute the personal representative of the worker’s estate as the petitioner. The Court of Appeals dismissed the case based on its conclusion that ORS 656.218 did not authorize the worker’s estate to pursue the matter. The Supreme Court disagreed with that interpretation of the statute and reversed the Court of Appeals’ dismissal of judicial review and remanded the case to that court for a determination on the merits.