State News : Texas

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NWCDN Members regularly post articles and summary judgements in workers’ compensations law in your state.  

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The Texas Supreme Court issued a decision blowing apart an attempt at settlement of a partial SIBs

quarter. Bonnie Jones and the workers’ comp carrier had taken a dispute over the 14th quarter of

SIBs through the agency and into district court. The DWC had determined that Ms. Jones was not entitled to benefits for that quarter and Ms. Jones took the case up. In the district court proceedings,

Ms. Jones agreed to a partial payment for the quarter and the proposed judgment incorporating the

settlement was sent to the DWC. The Labor Code requires that all proposed judgments be submitted

to the DWC so the agency can decide if there is a reason to intervene in the case. After reviewing

the proposed judgment, the DWC exercised its right to intervene and oppose the judgment on the

basis that the agency had already found that Jones had not fulfilled the mandatory work search

requirements for the 14th quarter, and that a partial SIBs award, even if both parties agreed, “flouts

the statutory formula’s edict to calculate the monetary entitlement in a precise way.” The trial court

went ahead and granted the judgment anyway, and the court of appeals affirmed, citing the longstanding

general policy of encouraging settlement. But, as stated in the Supreme Court’s opinion,

the trial court and court of appeals“ignor[ed] the particularities that the revamped workers’ comp

scheme provides.” Bottom line: SIBs entitlement is all or nothing for each quarter – no partial

settlements allowed. One wonders whether the parties attempted the same settlement at the agency

level. It seems an odd case for the agency to spend resources to pursue what seems to be an issue

of minor significance. Texas Dept. of Ins., Division of Workers’ Compensation v. Bonnie Jones and

American Home Assurance Company, (Tex. 2016) No. 15-0025, opinion issued June 24, 2016.