OF JUDGMENT: 03/07/2018
MISSISSIPPI WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: ROGEN K. CHHABRA CAROLINE SCOTT
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEES: GINGER MOORE ROBEY
IRVING, P.J., CARLTON AND FAIR, JJ.
Arthur Minor, a claimant in a workers' compensation
action, appeals from an order of the Mississippi Workers'
Compensation Commission imposing $500 in sanctions upon his
attorneys for delaying pursuit of his claim without
reasonable grounds under Mississippi Code Annotated section
71-3-59(2) (Rev. 2011). We reverse and render the
Commission's $500 sanction against Minor's attorneys.
OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Arthur Minor suffered compensable injuries during the course
of his employment with RGT Management Inc. as a shift
manager/cook for Taco Bell. A workers' compensation claim
on Minor's behalf was filed against RGT (Employer) and
Wausau Underwriters Insurance Company (Carrier) by his first
lawyer in March 2013. That lawyer's motion to withdraw
from representation of Minor was granted by the
Administrative Judge (AJ) on September 3, 2015. The order
provided, in relevant part, as follows:
Claimant is allowed thirty (30) days from the date of this
Order in which to obtain representation by another attorney
or continue prosecution of this claim without legal
representation. Failure to do so may result in the dismissal
of this claim.
The same AJ dismissed Minor's workers' compensation
claim by order dated November 2, 2015, based upon the
AJ's determination that Minor had failed to prosecute his
claim. The AJ found that her September 3, 2015 order had
"granted Mr. Minor thirty (30) days to obtain counsel or
announce his intent to pursue this claim without legal
representation" and that Minor had failed to comply with
that provision. The order further provided that "[t]o
request reinstatement of this claim, Claimant must timely
file a motion to reinstate with the Commission."
The AJ's November 2, 2015 order was not appealed, and
thus it became a final order in twenty days, pursuant to
Mississippi Code Annotated section 71-3-47 (Rev.
2011). Minor engaged new counsel (his current
counsel), and a motion to reinstate Minor's claim was
filed on his behalf on December 4, 2015.
Over a year later, on February 15, 2017, the Commission
issued a notice of hearing on Minor's motion, setting a
hearing for March 20, 2017. The Employer/Carrier filed a
response to Minor's motion to reinstate his claim on
March 10, 2017, seeking dismissal of Minor's claim. The
Employer/Carrier argued that the Commission no longer had
jurisdiction over Minor's claim because no action had
been taken on Minor's motion to reinstate since it was
filed in December 2015.
The AJ denied Minor's motion to reinstate by an order
dated April 27, 2017, finding that under Mississippi Code
Annotated section 71-3-53 (Rev. 2011) and the applicable case law,
the Commission no longer had jurisdiction to consider the
motion because Minor had done nothing after his motion to
reinstate was filed on December 4, 2015.
Minor appealed the AJ's order, requesting review before
the full Commission. He argued that the filing of his motion
to reinstate was sufficient to satisfy the one-year time
frame set forth in section 71-3-53 because the
Commission's procedural rules did not require that the
motion be set for oral argument. Minor asserted that because
his motion could be ...