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The Workers' Compensation Issues Raised by Coronavirus Pandemic and Michigan's Newly Promulgated Emergency Rules for "First Response Employees"

The Current Context

The novel Coronavirus (“COVID-19”), now classified as a full blown pandemic by the World Health Organization, is projected to continue spreading across Michigan and the United States over the next few months. In less than a month, the global number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has tripled from about 75,000 cases on February 20, 2020, to more than a quarter million cases as of Friday, March 20. The Washington Examiner reports that the death toll surpassed 10,000 last week. The World Health Organization has warned of the likelihood of continued “exponential growth.” For more on the impact of these emergency rules, see here.

Categories: COVID-19 and Workers' Compensation

Is an Employee Injured before December 19, 2011 Obligated to look for Work?

Broken FootThe Supreme Court of Michigan recently issued a decision addressing a plaintiff’s obligation to make a good faith job search where the injury arose prior to the 2011 amendments to the Worker’s Disability Compensation Act. Bell v. City of Saginaw. Plaintiff Bell was injured in the course of his employment on October 16, 2011. Benefits were voluntarily paid from the date of injury until his return to work. He subsequently went back off when he failed his fitness for duty physical. Workers’ compensation benefits were not reinstated and plaintiff filed suit. To read more about this case and its implications, see full article here.

Categories: Case Law Updates, Workers' Compensation

Appeals Court: J-1 Visa Employee at MSU Ineligible for Workers' Compensation

Work Injury Claim FormIn May 2019, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided Kuhlbert v Michigan State University. This case examines several interesting workers' compensation issues which we will analyze in a three-part series. Today, we discuss the case’s complicated facts and procedural history, and whether the plaintiff should be considered an “employee” pursuant to Michigan’s Workers' Disability Compensation Act (the “Act”). For more on the facts surrounding this case, see full article here.

Categories: Case Law Updates, Workers' Compensation

Employee or Independent Contractor? The Appellate Commission Applies its Own Facts to Overturn Magistrate’s Decision

BusinessmenIn July 2019, the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (“the Commission”) issued an Opinion in the case of Christopher Parshall v Worden & Company, Inc. In Parshall, the Commission reversed the magistrate’s factual determination that Mr. Parshall was an independent contractor and not an employee as defined by the Workers’ Disability Compensation Act (“Act”). To read more on this case and its classification of employee vs. independent contractor, see full article here.

Categories: Case Law Updates, Workers' Compensation

What is a Good-Faith Job Search Effort? Michigan Legislature Considers New Bill

MCL 418.301(5) sets forth the four requirements a claimant must satisfy in order to qualify for workers' compensation wage loss benefits.  The claimant must:

  1. Disclose his qualifications and training,
  2. Provide a list of jobs he is qualified and trained to perform within the same salary range as the job at which he was injured,
  3. Demonstrate that the work-related injury prevents him from performing the jobs he identified as within his qualifications and training that pay maximum wages, and
  4. If he is capable of performing any of the jobs within his qualifications, he must demonstrate that he cannot obtain any of those jobs by showing a good-faith attempt to procure post-injury employment

When analyzing the fourth element, how does a magistrate determine what is and what is not a good-faith job search effort? For more on what constitutes a good faith job search effort, see full article here.

Categories: Legislative Updates, Workers' Compensation

Employee Fraud Not a Condition for an Employer's/Insurer's Recoupment of Overpayment

Employer Holding Ipad The Michigan Court of Appeals recently issued a decision which addresses the rights of employers/insurance companies to obtain reimbursement for overpayments made to an injured worker. Iesha Fisher v Kalamazoo Regional Psychiatric Hospital and State of Michigan. The undisputed facts of the case are as follows. Plaintiff Fisher sustained a workplace injury and was voluntarily paid benefits. The employer initiated a recoupment action, alleging that it voluntarily paid Ms. Fisher three months of benefits at an improperly high rate. For more on this case and it's decision, see full article here.

Categories: Case Law Updates, Workers' Compensation

Michigan Considers a Statutory PTSD Presumption Among First Responders

Hand Holding GavelOn April 17, 2019, three Michigan State Representatives introduced House Bill No. 4473 to the Michigan House of Representatives Committee on Insurance. With the introduction of this bill, these legislators seek to have Michigan join several other states across the nation that have enacted, or are considering, workers' compensation legislation that creates a rebuttable presumption that a first responder's post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD") arose out of and occurred in the course of their employment. For more on this case, see full article here.

Categories: Legislative Updates, Workers' Compensation