Friday, October 12, 2007, 9:03 PM

SCT Reverses PC Workers' Comp.

In Plott v. Bojangles Restaurants, Inc., the NC Supreme Court reversed per curiam a then-Judge Hudson majority based on a Judge Tyson dissent in a workers' comp. case.

In Plott, the Industrial Commission cited a doctor who testified that the injured worker had a 10% permanent partial disability and awarded the worker only temporary total disability and medical compensation, determining that the worker was not entitled to ongoing benefits because he refused work.

The COA majority remanded for further findings, and also held that N.C. Gen. Stat. sec. 97-32 suspends and restores benefits and does not apply where the benefits are disputed. Judge Tyson dissented and would have affirmed, underscoring in his dissent that the IC didn't need to make findings not crucial to its award. Judge Tyson suggested that the IC didn't need to make findings relating to what general compensation the worker would be entitled to receive for his permanent partial disability had he not refused work because he indeed refused work.

The per curiam reversal would seem to indicate that 97-32 does not only suspend and reinstate those benefits already acknowledged or being paid. And given the text of the statute, rather than just its title, that would seem to be correct. (The statute states in full "If an injured employee refuses employment procured for him suitable to his capacity he shall not be entitled to any compensation at any time during the continuance of such refusal, unless in the opinion of the Industrial Commission such refusal was justified.") But 97-32 would also seem to indicate that if the injured worker stops refusing to work and takes a job, 97-32's bar regarding his benefits would be lifted. Therefore, it would make sense if the IC had included, or been forced to include, language as to the worker's disability and what the general compensation for the disability would be, should the worker take a job in the future.

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