eNotes: Workers’ Compensation – March 2023, Washington, DC
March 17, 2023
SIGNIFICANT CASE SUMMARIES
Washington, DC Case Summary
Hughes-Turner v. Supercuts, Inc.
DC Compensation Review Board
CRB no. 20-025(R)
February 3, 2023
The plain meaning of D.C. Code § 32-1505(b), which caps TTD and PPD benefits at 500 weeks, unambiguously applies in aggregate to both TTD and Non-Schedule PPD benefits.
Claimant was paid 117.5 weeks of temporary total disability benefits and 373 weeks of “non-schedule” permanent partial disability benefits, reaching a total 490.5 weeks of benefits. Employer argued that should Claimant return for additional disability benefits, recovery is capped at 500 weeks. The ALJ held that for purposes of calculating the 500 week cap under DC Code §32-1505(b), TTD benefits are not aggregated with payments for “non-schedule” PPD benefits. On appeal the CRB reversed the decision, and held that there was an aggregate cap of 500 weeks. On remand, the ALJ concluded that PPD and TTD benefits are combined under a single 500 week cap. Claimant appealed to the CRB. Again, the CRB held that there was one single aggregated 500-week cap for TTD and PPD disability benefits. Claimant appealed to the DC Court of Appeals.
The DC Court of Appeals neither determined, nor interpreted, the meaning or application of DC Code §32-1505(b). Instead, the court remanded the matter back to the CRB for further consideration of the meaning and application of DC Code §32-1505(b). Specifically, whether the 500-week cap [in DC Code §32-1505(b)] applied to TTD and PPD separately or in the aggregate.
The CRB held that the plain language of D.C. Code § 32-1505(b) unambiguously limits TTD and PPD benefits to a combined total of 500 weeks. Additionally, in considering legislative intent, the CRB noted that one primary objective of D.C. Code § 32-1505(b) was to “contain workers’ compensation costs.” Consequently, the CRB held that aggregating both TTD and PPD under a single 500 week cap is consistent with both the legislative intent and plain meaning of D.C. Code § 32-1505(b). Therefore, although workers’ compensation laws instill humanitarian principles, the courts are still required to apply the plaining meaning of the laws as they are written.
The CRB reaffirmed its previous decisions that the 500 week cap exists in aggregate across both TTD and Non-schedule PPD.
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