South Carolina Supreme Court Says Lower Tribunals Should Have Stuck to Issues Actually Raised by Employer in Workers’ Compensation Case – Hilton v. Flakeboard America Limited

The appellate process is designed to provide efficient and meaningful review of the decisions of lower courts and administrative tribunals. Of course, even when things run smoothly, an appeal can lengthen the time that it takes to resolve a dispute.

When an appeal does not follow the usual course, however, it can take even longer for an injured person, including an employee seeking workers’ compensation benefits, to receive what he or she is owed.

Facts of the Case

In the case of Hilton v. Flakeboard America Limited, the plaintiff was a worker who suffered an on-the-job injury when he was bitten by a spider or insect while working. He filed a claim against the defendants (his employer and its insurance company), seeking workers’ compensation benefits. The defendants admitted that the worker’s claim was compensable, but a dispute arose as to whether the worker required further medical treatment before reaching maximum medical improvement (MMI).

A single commissioner ruled that the worker had not reached MMI, but the full South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission vacated and remanded the single commissioner’s ruling. After the South Carolina Court of Appeals dismissed the worker’s appeal of the commission’s order, he sought further review from the state’s highest court.

Ruling of the State Supreme Court

On appeal to the South Carolina Supreme Court, the worker argued that the court of appeals made a mistake when it ruled that the commission’s order was not immediately appealable. The supreme court agreed and entered an order vacating the court of appeals’ decision and remanding the case to the commission with orders to address only certain issues preserved in the employer’s Form 30.

In so holding, the supreme court noted that, under South Carolina law, only issues raised before the commission within the application for review of the single commissioner’s order are preserved for review. Nevertheless, the commission had sua sponte raised as an issue the competency of the worker (who apparently suffered some cognitive issues due to a previous brain injury) and ex mero motu ordered the worker to have his physical injuries evaluated by a physician of his employer’s choosing. Furthermore, the commission vacated the single commissioner’s order, requiring both parties to start anew, rather than simply remanding the case and allowing the single commissioner to address the issue of the worker’s competency.

Accordingly, the supreme court remanded the case to the commission with directions to consider only the employer’s specific exceptions to the single commissioner’s order, as those exceptions were presented in the employer’s Form 30.

If You Have a South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Claim

Being hurt on the job can present a multitude of challenges, both physical and financial. A seasoned South Carolina work injury attorney at the Law Offices of Patrick E. Knie can help you understand your right to benefits following a work-related injury. For a free consultation, call us in Spartanburg or Greenville at (864) 582-5118.

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South Carolina Worker’s Appeal Within 30 Days of Denial of Rehearing by Appellate Panel of the Workers’ Compensation Commission Was Timely – Rhame v. Charleston County School District

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