South Carolina Supreme Court Remands 10-Year Old Workers’ Compensation Case to Commission’s Appellate Panel for a Final and Appealable Order

In a South Carolina workers’ compensation lawsuit, the employee may seek several forms of compensation: temporary total disability benefits, permanent partial or permanent total disability payments, and/or payment of medical expenses.

Some cases involving only minor injuries may be wrapped up in a reasonably timely fashion, while more complicated cases may lag on for a much longer period of time.

Unfortunately, sometimes even a relatively simple case may take a long time to resolve, especially if the employer files repeated appeals.

Facts of the Case

A recent case heard by the state’s highest court began some 10 years prior, when the plaintiff employee was allegedly injured while working at the defendant employer’s retail store in Conway, South Carolina. The workers’ compensation commission initially awarded the plaintiff 7% permanent partial disability and 21 weeks of temporary total disability compensation payments.

Four years after her injury, the plaintiff requested a review of her award on the basis of an alleged change in her condition, caused by the original injury. The resolution of that request had been in litigation for some six years prior to the court’s decision. Describing the situation as “a perpetual cycle of orders and appeals such that she will be deprived of an adequate remedy,” the plaintiff sought legal redress from the state supreme court.

Holding of the South Carolina Supreme Court

The South Carolina Supreme Court granted the plaintiff’s petition for a writ of certiorari, thereby reversing the most recent holding of the intermediate court of appeals, which had held that the order of the appellate panel of the workers’ compensation commission was not immediately appealable and thereby dismissing the plaintiff’s appeal therefrom.

The court began its analysis by observing that the goal of the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act was to provide quick and efficient resolution of work injury claims. This was so that neither the employee nor the employer would become “bogged down” in complicated, protracted litigation. While the goal of the Act may have been to encourage swift recovery for workplace injuries regardless of fault, it was quite apparent that this had not taken place in the case at part.

The court went on to agree with the plaintiff that the commission’s unreasonable delay in making a final decision in her case had left her without an adequate remedy on appeal from a final decision. Therefore, the court found that the appellate panel’s remand order was immediately appealable, reversed the order remanding the plaintiff’s case to a single commissioner, and remanded the case to an appellate panel for an immediate and final review of the 2013 order at issue.

Call an Experienced South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

It is not unusual for an employer, especially a large corporate employer, to engage in protracted litigation aimed at “starving out” an employee and/or sending a powerful message to other would-be litigants. In order to have a fighting chance at receiving fair compensation, it is essential for an injured worker to have an experienced and assertive South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer on his or her side. To schedule an appointment with a member of the work injury legal team at the Patrick E. Knie Law Offices, call us at 864-582-5118 and set up a free consultation in our Spartanburg or Greenville offices.

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