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Appeals Court affirms Benefits Review Board’s decision in offshore permanent disability benefits case

By Eliza Walker | Dec 27, 2013

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NEW ORLEANS – A federal appeals court has determined a man who was working offshore on an oil production platform when he allegedly injured his knee for which he filed a claim for benefits could not later alter his claim to obtain permanent partial disability.

Island Operating Co. Inc. and Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Corp. originally filed suit against the director of the Office of Workers Compensation Programs, the U.S. Department of Labor and Martin B. Taylor Jr. in the Benefits Review Board.

Island Operating and its carrier, the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation, originally petitioned the appeal’s court to review a modification of a benefits award under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Island asked the Appeals Court to reverse the modified decision, because the original judgment was not eligible for modification and the Appeals Court affirmed the decision.

In January 2006, Taylor was working offshore for Island on an oil production platform when his right knee allegedly popped as he was crossing the deck. He performed light duty work until late May when his employment was terminated. He continued to suffer from pain and underwent orthopedic surgery, but continued to suffer from knee pain.

In May 2006, Taylor filed a claim for benefits under the LHWC Act, and in January 2010, modified his application to seek benefits for permanent partial disability. Taylor states he submitted reports from two physicians, which both found that he had a 25 percent permanent disability in each knee, and on that basis, the ALJ granted his modification petition.

Island filed a petition for review, on the basis that this evidence was available at the time of the initial hearing. Island argues that Taylor’s claim was never eligible for modification because he never satisfied the legal predicate necessary to invoke the action.

The appeals court found that mistakes of fact are not limited to newly discovered and previously unattainable evidence, and affirmed the BRB’s decision on that basis.

The case was heard by Circuit Judges Harold R. DeMoss Jr., Priscilla Owen and Catharina Haynes. The decision was written by Judge Owen.

Case no. 12-60222.

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