The State Industrial Commission will delay its decision on whether to eliminate the deduction of appellate court-awarded attorney fees from workers' compensation benefits until the Utah Court of Appeals has a chance to rule on the issue.
Commission Chairman Stephen M. Hadley's announcement of the commission's position during an unusual night meeting resulted in objections from attorneys representing businesses and insurance companies that write the workers' compensation insurance."We will wait for the Court of Appeals decision until we go into rule making," said Hadley. "We want to be able to offer a quick resolution to complaints without lengthy litigation."
The disputed policy concerns Stanley Lou Harrison, Vernal, who was injured while working for Olympus Oil Co. He received some benefits, but when he insisted that he have a second operation, the Workers' Compensation Fund cut off his benefits.
Administrative Law Judge Gilbert A. Martinez ruled that any attorney fees paid cannot be deducted from the amount of benefits Harrison receives. Olympus Oil, the Workers' Compensation Fund and the Second Injury Fund appealed the decision to the commission.
In May, Commissioner John Florez and former Commissioner Lenice L. Nielsen upheld Martinez's decision while Hadley dissented. Since that time the Utah Court of Appeals has agreed to hear the case and Thomas R. Carlson has joined the commission.
Hadley said they will not reconsider the rule before the court hears the case for fear it might influence the outcome.
In other action, the commissioners announced that they will start accepting applications for two advisory councils created during the 1988 session of the legislature. The two councils, the Workers' Compensation Advisory Council and Job Service Advisory Council, will advise the commission about issues and decisions regarding workers' compensation and employment security.
The Workers' Compensation Advisory Council will have at least seven members of the public, seven employer representatives, and seven employee representatives from both union and non-union organizations.
The Job Service Advisory Council will have five public representatives, five employer representatives and five employee representatives.
Florez said that people should be nominated by July 1 and nominations must include a brief biographical sketch. The law requires that the commission must consider appointing women, minorities, the disabled or others who have been historically excluded from commission decisions.
The commission tabled action on revisions to a form used when employees are injured. Several lawyers objected to a section detailing race calling it discriminatory. Florez defended the race questions as necessary to document injuries to minority groups.