NWCDN Members regularly post articles and summary judgements in workers’ compensations law in your state.
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If you are a regular reader of our newsletter, you know that there was a challenge pending in the 13th Court of Appeals to the old Seabolt standard for determining entitlement to Lifetime Income Benefits. The challenge boils down to whether “total loss of use” of a body part as stated in the current LIBs statute really means “total” and whether loss of use under the current LIBs statute means loss of function as a member of the body, or loss of function in regard to employability. At the Zoom trial held in this case, the trial court judge determined that the old standard still applied and that the worker could not work using his hand, despite the video evidence that showed the worker using his hand while working for himself. Well, lo and behold, well after the fact and during the course of the carrier’s appeal to the 13th Court of Appeals, SLS received an anonymous letter in the mail. We will leave you to wonder what the letter said, but it did mention in closing that SLS did a good job at the trial, which was a nice compliment having nothing to do with the merits of the case. Given that the trial was held by Zoom with limited participants, we wonder how the writer of the letter knew so much!
In the meantime, the 13th Court of Appeals issued a Memorandum opinion on October 12, 2023 dodging the legal issue it was asked to address, and holding that “the doctrine of vertical stare decises” required the Court to follow the precedent of the Texas Supreme Court as established law affirming the use of the Seabolt standard to new law cases. However, the precedents the Court cited were not cases where any party directly challenged the Seabolt standard itself. The cases merely applied that standard. No challenge was made in those cases on the basis that under the current LIBs statute employability is not relevant to the application of the statutory language of “total loss of use.” The LIBs statute contains no qualifier indicating that employability is determinative of entitlement. The Court of Appeals case is not yet final.
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