L.D. 1913 represents the first significant amendment of the Maine Workers’ Compensation Act in twenty years, and a much lauded provision of the new law is the amendment of Section 205(9)(B)(2). As it read prior to amendment, an Employer/Insurer could successfully establish the right to terminate payment of indemnity benefits due to the running of the 520 week period, but be compelled to continue paying indemnity benefits, Decree notwithstanding, because Section 205(9)(B)(2) specifically directed an employer/insurer to continue paying benefits during the pendency of an appeal. As one can imagine, ever losing employee appealed the Decree, and so continued the flow of indemnity for as long as it took the Law Court to reject the appeal.
Making matters worse, the right to recover “overpayments” paid pending appeal, found under 39-A M.R.S.A. Section 324(1), exists only for employers/insurers who are paying some level of benefits pursuant to an award of benefits. So for an employer/insurer who successfully reduces the level of partial indemnity but has to continue paying the pre-Decree level pending the outcome of the appeal, there is a right to recover the overpayment made during appeal, but for an employer/insurer who has prevailed in establishing the cap and terminating indemnity payments, there is no right to recover the windfall to the employee.
L.D. 1913 has fixed this problem by amending the language of Section 205(9)(B)(2) to now allow suspension of indemnity benefits as soon as the Hearing Officer rules on the petition. An employer/insurer is also now specifically permitted to reduce or discontinue benefits pursuant to a Decree pending a motion for further findings of fact or pending an appeal. These amendments are effective as of August 30, 2012, so any matter decided on or after that date involving a determination of the applicability of the cap will be governed by this new, much more reasonable and business-friendly provision.