eNotes: Workers’ Compensation – July 2022 – Washington, DC
July 21, 2022
SIGNIFICANT CASE SUMMARIES
DC CASE SUMMARY
Hughes-Turner v. Supercuts
DC Court of Appeals
Decided: July 14, 2022
D.C. Code § 32-1505(b), which capped TTD benefits at 500 weeks, is ambiguous as to whether the cap applies in the aggregate to TTD benefits and PPD benefits, or applies separately to each type of benefit.
Claimant was paid 233 weeks temporary partial disability benefits, 117.5 weeks of temporary total benefits, and 290 weeks of permanent partial disability wage loss benefits. Employer argued this payment amounted to the full cap of 500 weeks. The ALJ held that for purposes of calculating the 500 week cap under DC Code §32-1505(b), TPD benefits are not included, and that Claimant is entitled to additional permanent non-schedule disability benefits subject to the 500-week cap. On appeal to the CRB, the CRB reversed the decision, and held that there was an aggregate cap of 500 weeks. On remand, the judge concluded Claimant had received a combined 640.5 weeks for TPD, TTD, and PPD wage loss benefits, which is over the 500 week cap, and denied further payment of benefits. Claimant appealed to the CRB. It was again determined that TPD should not be included in the calculation of the aggregate 500 weeks calculation, and further held that there was one single cap for temporary total and permanent partial disability benefits of 500 weeks aggregated benefits. Claimant appealed to the DC Court of Appeals.
The DC Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, finding that the language of the statute was ambiguous as to whether the 500 week cap applied to TTD and PPD separately or in the aggregate. While the CRB relied on the legislative history to posit that an aggregate 500 week cap was in line with the intent of the bill, the Court of Appeals disagreed generally that the legislative history was clear on a 500 week cap. The Court also disagreed that an aggregate 500 week cap coincided with the broad context of the statute, since the courts construe workers’ compensation statutes liberally to achieve the humanitarian purpose of the Act.
The Court remanded to the CRB to analyze the statute under the maxim that it is ambiguous.
Hopefully the CRB will hold – for yet another time – that the 500 week cap exists across TTD and PPD. In its previous decision, it concluded that it would adopt the aggregate interpretation even if the statute was ambiguous, so we expect they will do so again.
Any questions regarding this case can be addressed to Mike Bliley, Esquire, at (571) 464-0435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.