eNotes – Workers’ Compensation – August 2022 – Virginia
August 24, 2022
SIGNIFICANT CASE SUMMARIES
VA CASE SUMMARY
County of Henrico v. Casie O’Neil
Virginia Court of Appeals
Decided: August 2, 2022
A claim was not barred by res judicata.
Claimant was punched near her throat during a training exercise. She was initially diagnosed with a left clavicle contusion. A subsequent MRI revealed degenerative disc disease in the spine. After Claimant filed a claim for her neck, collarbone, and left arm, the parties entered an award agreement stipulating to “sternoclavicular joint strain.”
Over a year later, Claimant filed a claim for injuries sustained to her brachial plexus, neck, collarbone, left arm, left ear, and mouth, all arising out of the same accident. The Deputy Commissioner denied this claim as barred by res judicata. The Full Commission reversed, finding that the claim was not barred by res judicata, and remanded to the Deputy Commissioner who denied again, on grounds that Claimant did not prove injuries to those body parts. The Full Commission reversed in part, finding that she did prove injuries to her brachial plexus, neck, collarbone, and left arm. Employer appealed, primarily on the Res Judicata issue.
The Court of Appeals affirmed, and found the claim was not barred by Res Judicata. Because Claimant filed a claim, but entered into an award agreement before an evidentiary hearing was scheduled on the claim, it was not barred. The Court found that Claimant had not yet presented all of her claims to the Commission for adjudication, and neither waived nor abandoned her other claims.
The Court was also persuaded by the general public policy considerations, suggesting that an adverse ruling would have discouraged the voluntary settlement of claims arising from compensable injuries. Therefore, a Res Judicata bar would frustrated the purpose of the Act.
While Res Judicata will present a bar to claims in some instances, the Commission and the Court of Appeals will almost always err on the side of allowing a claim. Specifically, absent additional circumstances, it now appears a claim has to make it to a hearing before the bar can even be considered.
Any questions regarding this case can be addressed to Mike Bliley, Esquire, at (571) 464-0435 or email@example.com.