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The Rule of Necessity in Workers’ Comp Claims

Webster & Carlton

The Rule of Necessity in Workers Comp Claims

There is no doubt that any type of judicial appeal can be complicated, and there are specific procedures for workers’ compensation claim appeals in Missouri. Sometimes cases become even more complicated when there are conflicts with the commissioners who review appeals, as demonstrated in a recent case, Nivens v. Interstate Brands Corporation, WD82132 consolidated with WD82136 (Mo. Ct. App., 2019). In that case, a complex legal principle called the “Rule of Necessity” came into play. The Rule of Necessity requires or permits a judge or another qualified individual to adjudicate a case in spite of personal interest, bias, or another conflict in order to complete a tribunal. When this Rule comes into play in workers’ compensation decisions, it is critical to have a highly experienced attorney reviewing the matter to identify whether the Rule was invoked properly or not.

Background of the Case

Dale Nivens had a job with Interstate Brands that required physical labor, and in 2008, he underwent knee surgery for a work-related injury. Following surgery, he returned to work, and the company provided him with assistance to complete the physical aspects of his position. Interstate Brands then took away his assistant, and he could not perform his job on his own due to his knee injury, Years later, in 2017, an administrative law judge (ALJ) found that Nivens was permanently and totally disabled and entitled to disability benefits based on his knee and other injuries. The Missouri Department of Labor’s Second Injury Fund appealed the ALJ’s decision, and such appeals are heard by the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission

Invoking the Rule of Necessity

A panel of three commissioners usually hear appeals in claims like this one. One commissioner had a prior personal relationship with Nivens, so he recused himself from participating in the appeal. However, when the two other commissioners could not agree on a decision, the recused commissioner once again joined the case, claiming he was invoking the Rule of Necessity. This Rule would allow him to participate despite a past personal relationship with the plaintiff if needed. That commissioner joined the ruling in favor of the ALJ’s award to Nivens. The Second Injury Fund again appealed, this time to the Missouri Court of Appeals, stating the Rule of Necessity was improperly used, so the award should not stand. However, the Appeals Court found the Rule of Necessity was proper according to previous state precedent, and that the commissioners’ decision should stand.

Consult with a Missouri Workers’ Compensation Lawyer for More Information

The above case is only one example of highly complicated procedural and legal issues that can arise in workers’ compensation claims and appeals. You want a Missouri workers’ compensation attorney on your side who can protect your rights in light of such complex issues in your case. The Law Firm of Webster & Carlton is ready to help, so please contact us to schedule an appointment at either our Springfield or Joplin office today.

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