Lawrence v. John Lucas Tree Experts, Inc., 071521 MEWC, 18-0045

Docket NºApp. Div. 18-0045
Case DateJuly 15, 2021
CourtMaine
KENNETH LAWRENCE (Appellee)
v.
JOHN LUCAS TREE EXPERTS, INC. (Appellant)
And
CCMSI (Insurer)
App. Div. No. 18-0045
Decision No. 21-22
Maine Workers Compensation Decisions
State of Maine Workers’ Compensation Board
July 15, 2021
          Conference held: April 11, 2019           Attorney for Appellant: James A. McCormack, Esq. TAYLOR, McCORMACK & FRAME           Attorneys for Appellee: Michael J. Welch, Esq. William C. Herbert, Esq. HARDY, WOLF & DOWNING           PANEL MEMBERS: Administrative Law Judges Stovall, Hirtle, and Pelletier BY: Administrative Law Judge Stovall          [¶1] John Lucas Tree Experts, Inc. (Lucas Tree), appeals from a decision of a Workers’ Compensation Board administrative law judge (Jerome, ALJ) granting in part Kenneth Lawrence’s Petition for Payment of Medical and Related Services regarding a March 8, 2005, date of injury. The ALJ determined that the limitations period was tolled during a payment “holiday” under 39-A M.R.S.A. § 107 (2001) because medical payments were made for the work injury and Lucas Tree had knowledge of those payments before the limitations period expired. Lucas Tree contends that the ALJ committed reversible error because the limitations period is tolled only by payments by an employer or insurer, not by credits toward a payment holiday. We disagree and affirm the decision.          I. BACKGROUND          [¶2] Kenneth Lawrence was injured at work on March 8, 2005. The circumstances of his injury gave rise to recovery from a third-party tort claim. Pursuant to 39-A M.R.S.A. § 107, Lucas Tree’s obligation to pay incapacity and medical benefits was suspended during a payment “holiday”—a period consistent with the time it takes for the third-party settlement amount to be paid down for wage loss and work injury-related medical expenses. Before the payment holiday began, Lucas Tree made payments on Mr. Lawrence’s workers’ compensation claim, with the last payment being made on March 25, 2009. Without considering section 107, the statute of limitations would have expired on March 25, 2015. 39-A M.R.S.A. § 306 (Pamph. 2020) (setting the limitations period at six years from the most recent payment).          [¶3] Mr. Lawrence filed a petition for payment of medical and related services on February 6, 2015, alleging that he had incurred medical expenses related to his work injury; however, that petition was dismissed without prejudice. Mr. Lawrence later refiled his petition, and the parties agreed that the effective filing date was November 30, 2016.          [¶4] Relying on McKeeman v. Cianbro, 2002 ME 144, 804 A.2d 406, the ALJ determined that the statute of limitations was tolled during the payment holiday because the employer had notice that the treatment Mr. Lawrence received was due to his work-related injury within the six-year period (based on the February 6, 2015, petition), and but for the payment holiday, Lucas Tree would have been required to pay for most of this this treatment.          [¶5] The ALJ also found that the payment holiday had been exhausted. Therefore, the ALJ ordered Lucas Tree to pay work injury-related medical expenses incurred thereafter. Lucas Tree filed a motion for further findings of fact and conclusions of law. The ALJ issued an amended decree but did alter the outcome. Lucas Tree appealed the amended decree.          II. DISCUSSION          [¶6] The role of the Appellate Division “is limited to assuring that the [ALJ’s] findings are supported by competent evidence, that [the] decision involved no misconception of applicable law and that the application of the law to the facts was neither arbitrary nor without...

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