Workers Compensation: COMBS V. KENTUCKY RIVER DISTRICT HEALTH DEPT. (COA; 2/7/2006)

COMBS V. KENTUCKY RIVER DISTRICT HEALTH DEPT.
WORKERS COMP –  Future Medical Benefits Entitled After Reaching MMI

2005-CA-001135
Published 
REVERSING AND REINSTATING [HENRY, J.]
Date: 2/10/2006

Reversed decision of the Workers’ Compensation Board finding that an award of future medical benefits is not authorized after a claimant reaches maximum medical improvement in the absence of a permanent impairment and resulting disability and reinstated the award of the Administrative Law Judge.

Claimant had neck and back injury and reached MMI. ALJ concluded that, although she had received “temporary total disability” income benefits for the period from June 5, 2003 to January 4, 2004, due to her injuries, claimant was not entitled to income benefits for “permanent partial disability” after that point because the evidence did not merit a permanent disability impairment rating for those injuries. The ALJ further ruled that – despite his finding of no permanent disability – claimant was entitled to “future medication as may be needed” and ruled that she “shall further recover of the Defendant, Kentucky River District Health Department, and/or its insurance carrier, for the cure and relief from the effects of the injury such medical, surgical and hospital treatment including nursing, medical and surgical supplies and appliances, as may reasonably be required at the time of the injury and thereafter during disability.”

Despite the Board’s belief that the conclusion in Cavin v. Lake Construction Co., 451 S.W.2d 159 (Ky. 1970) that future medical benefits may still be awarded in the absence of a finding of disability is mere dicta and “conflicts with the plain language of KRS 342.020, which confines an award for medical expenses to those expenses which ‘may reasonably be required at the time of injury and thereafter during disability’” (italics in original), this proposition has been repeatedly recognized and followed by our courts – even given the sweeping legislative changes of the workers’ compensation system in 1996. See Alcan Foil Products, a Division of Alcan Aluminum Corp. v. Huff, 2 S.W.3d 96, 99 (Ky. 1999) Moreover, the particular portion of KRS 342.020 noted above that was cited by the Board as being in conflict with Cavin was in effect well before that decision was rendered, and our predecessor court presumably was aware of it when the case was decided. While the Board may disagree with this precedent, it is still bound to follow it. Accordingly, until our Supreme Court decides to explicitly overturn its decision in Cavin, we will continue to abide by the principles set forth in that case. Therefore, COA "must reverse the Board on this issue."

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