The Alaska Workers Compensation Board issued a Final Decision and Order in the case of Gillion v The Northwest Co/Berkshire Hathaway Homestate Insurance Co. on
July 31, 2017, Gillion v Berkshire Hathaway.
Holmes, Weddle & Barcott defended the insurance company.
In this case, the Employee had been treated with epidural injections for a herniated L5-S1 and annual tear. When the treating physicians referred the Employee for a consultation with a surgeon, the insurance company obtained an "independent medical evaluation" by Dr. David Bauer. Dr. Bauer opined that in the Employee had only suffered a lumbar strain, that if he had any symptoms they were due to "preexisting degenerative disease" and that he needed no further treatment other than some physical therapy.
The insurance then cut off the Employee's medical treatment without filing a controversion notice as required by Alaska law. In response, a claim was filed for medical benefits and an increase in the compensation rate that had been been paid when the Employee was off work.
The claim was filed which was vigorously defended by Holmes, Weddle & Barcott. A few days before the hearing, Holmes, Weddle & Barcott filed a petition demanding mediation and to have the hearing canceled. The Employee opposed the petition. The law is clear that a party is entitled to a hearing upon the claim. Once a hearing date is set, it cannot be canceled except for good cause. Moreover, the Employee was not willing to compromise his claim; he wanted a decision from the Board.
On the morning of the hearing, the Board denied Holmes, Weddle & Barcott's petition for mediation. In response, the insurer suddenly withdrew its controversions and agreed to pay medical benefits. However, Holmes, Weddle & Barcott did not agree to the compensation rate amount sought.
In the Final Decision, the Board held:
- The Employee was entitled medical benefits for treatment of his back injury,
- The Employee was entitled to an increase in compensation rate and the insurance company owed him back pay,
- When the Employee was re-injured approximately one year after his first injury, that second injury constituted a new injury and that his compensation rate needed to be increased again.
Keenan Powell has practiced law in Alaska for more than 30 years and has dedicated her practice to Workers Compensation representing injured Alaskans.
All consultations are free. If you want to set up a meeting, use the contact form on www.keenanpowell.com or call: 907 258 7663.