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Stevenson v. GE Healthcare

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

May 29, 2018

CRAIG STEVENSON APPELLANT
v.
GE HEALTHCARE AND ELECTRIC INSURANCE COMPANY APPELLEES

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 06/20/2017

          MISSISSIPPI WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: JAMES (JAY) R. FOSTER II.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: BETTY B. ARINDER MICHELLE BARLOW MIMS.

          BEFORE IRVING, P.J., BARNES AND WILSON, JJ.

          IRVING, P.J.

         ¶1. Craig Stevenson appeals the judgment of the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission), arguing that it erred in denying his motion to reinstate his workers' compensation claim against GE Healthcare and Electric Insurance Company (GE Healthcare).

         ¶2. Finding no error, we affirm. FACTS

         ¶3. Stevenson filed a petition to controvert on November 13, 2012, alleging that he sustained a work-related injury on October 25, 2008. GE Healthcare filed an answer on December 5, 2012, and denied that a work-related injury had occurred. GE Healthcare also denied that Stevenson was performing service growing out of or in the course of his employment at the time of the alleged injury or occupational disease. On January 8, 2015, the Commission dismissed the claim because of Stevenson's "failure to respond to a status request." The order of dismissal stated that

[t]his order will become final unless Claimant or any other party files a written request for review of this order within twenty (20) days per Miss. Code Ann. 71-3-47 (Rev. 2000). A final order of dismissal for failure to respond to a status request is the rejection of a claim sufficient to trigger the one-year statute of limitations set forth in Miss. Code Ann. Section 71-3-53 (Rev. 2000).

         ¶4. Since Stevenson did not appeal the order of dismissal within twenty days, it became final on January 28, 2015. The record reveals that he did not file his motion to reinstate his claim until August 18, 2016, well beyond one year of the order becoming final, and he did not take any other action to toll the one-year statute of limitations prescribed by section 71-3-53.[1] The AJ and, thereafter, the full Commission denied Stevenson's motion. Stevenson appeals, claiming that he should not be penalized for his previous lawyer's inaction because he relied upon his lawyer's representation that his case was pending.

         DISCUSSION

         ¶5. "The standard of review by which an appellate court resolves a workers' compensation case is that of substantial evidence; however, where the issue is one of law and not of fact, the standard of review is de novo." Shelby v. Peavey Elecs. Corp., 724 So.2d 504, 506 (¶8) (Miss. Ct. App. 1998). "[T]he commission has continuing jurisdiction, within limits, to reopen a case in the doing of which it will not be reversed unless its discretion has been abused." J.R. Logging v. Halford, 765 So.2d 580, 585 (¶18) (Miss. Ct. App. 2000).

         ¶6. As stated, Stevenson argues that he relied upon his previous lawyer's representation that his case was pending and that he should not be penalized for his lawyer's inaction. He asserts that he was told by his attorney that his case was pending and that he was simply waiting on the AJ to issue an order; however, the AJ had already dismissed his case by way of her January 8, 2015 order. He argues that the dismissal of this case occurred through no fault of his own. Stevenson claims that his first attorney died, and his second attorney did not provide him with the correct information about the status of his case. He contends that he was entitled to rely on his attorney's representations and, therefore, his claim should have been reinstated. He cites ...


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