A South Carolina appeals court ruled Wednesday that an employer and an insurer could not back out of a settlement agreement simply because the worker died before the agreement was filed with the Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Gus King suffered injuries while working for Pierside Boatworks in November 2011 and in May 2014 the Workers’ Compensation Commission awarded Mr. King’s permanent and total disability benefits, which were paid in a lump sum, and medical benefits for the rest of his life, according to Ex Parte Horneinto the South Carolina Court of Appeals in Columbia.
In June 2016, Mr. King in mediation with his employer and its insurer. They agreed to settle Mr. King̵7;s right to future medical benefits. Seven days later, Mr. King in an unrelated car accident. That same day, the insurer sent a letter to their attorney with the settlement check, indicating that they were in the process of completing the paperwork. The insurer requested that the attorney hold the check until the commission approved the settlement.
Five days later, the insurer informed the attorney that a stop payment had been issued on the check and that it determined how Mr. King’s death affected the “unfinished business”.
The insurer then intended to withdraw from the settlement, believing that Mr. King’s claim subsided on his death. The insurer never filed the agreement with the commission.
Mr King’s lawyer sought to file the agreement and have it enforced. A workers’ compensation commissioner found the agreement unenforceable because Mr. King never executed it or signed a release. The commission confirmed that.
On reversal and remand, the appeals court said amended state law no longer requires commission approval of a settlement agreement when both parties are represented by counsel. It simply requires the employer to submit a copy of the settlement agreement to the commission.
The court said it appeared that the only reason the insurer did not submit the agreement was that Mr. King unexpectedly died.
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