March 01, 2012

Errata: Patel v. Home Depot Redux

March 01, 2012

Our readers will recall our recent report on the case where the employer, although granted credit for an apparent overpayment of benefits by the Commission, was denied this credit when the claimant pursued a judgment from the circuit court for the sums awarded for TTD, penalties and fees by the Commission.  We were taken aback by this decision, as a close reading of both the decision of the arbitrator and the Commission, as well as the Appellate Court decision, gave no insight into how the court reached such an absurd result.

Well, after delving into the ‘story behind the story’ we learned that the Commission, whose decision awarded claimant TTD for only those weeks in dispute, gave the employer credit for all sums paid including TTD not in dispute.  Thus, the award, on its face, gave the claimant far less than what he was entitled to receive:  compensation (TTD and PPD advances) was paid from October 19, 2001 through February 14, 2003 totaling $32,357.47 and TTD was awarded from February 14, 2003 through October 20, 2003 (the date of hearing).  For reasons uncertain, the employer asserted a credit, which included undisputed weeks of TTD paid but which petitioner was not awarded, against the unpaid weeks that were awarded.  Thus, while it appeared the employer had overpaid benefits, in fact, TTD had not been paid for the weeks awarded — February 14, 2003 through October 20, 2003.  Consequently, as matters transpired, the claimant was not overreaching as most of us in the WC community were given to think.

As practitioners, we find that many IWCC decisions are written without clearly setting forth the credit:  petitioner is awarded TTD from July 1st through September 1st, for example, 9 weeks; respondent is given credit for having paid TTD from March 4ththrough June 30th, the period before the TTD dispute erupted, 17 weeks.  With no explanation to the contrary, it appears as if there has been an overpayment of 8 weeks, whereas in fact petitioner is owed a total of 26 weeks, with respondent to be credited with the 17 week payment.  In the wrong hands, this methodology can cause confusion, at a minimum.

The moral to this story is that all those who practice before the Commission must vigilantly insist that the Commission write its decisions with precision, stating all relevant facts and explaining all conclusions.  The failure to do so here has caused much confusion, and an ill-begotten Appellate Court decision which is incomprehensible without the insight this errata provides.