Click for Official Page
Oral argument was held on February 5, 2014. The Court issued an opinion resolving the case on June 20, 2014. File Closed
Tracking 3 articles about this case.
Justice Lehrmann delivered the opinion of the Court. PDF
|2014-06-20||Opinion issued||Certified question answered by the Court|
|This case was awaiting the Court's decision after oral argument between February 14, 2014 and June 20, 2014.|
|2014-02-14||Post submission brief filed (Respondent)|
|2014-02-12||Amicus Curiae Letter Received|
|2014-01-27||Amicus Curiae Brief received|
|2014-01-21||Oral Argument Submission Form from Attorney received|
|2014-01-13||Oral Argument Submission Form from Attorney received|
|2014-01-10||Case set for oral argument||Case set for oral argument|
|2013-12-23||Brief on the Merits (Appellant in case)|
|2013-12-12||Brief on the Merits (Appellee in case)|
|2013-11-06||Motion for Extension of Time disposed.||Filing granted|
|2013-11-06||Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief filed|
|2013-10-22||Brief on the Merits (Appellant in case)|
|2013-09-16||Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief filed|
|2013-09-16||Motion for Extension of Time disposed.||Filing granted|
|2013-08-23||Certified Question disposed||Certified Question accepted|
|2013-08-23||Brief on the Merits Requested|
|2013-08-23||Certified Question accepted|
|2013-08-21||Phone call from Clerk's Office|
|2013-08-20||Notice requesting filing fee|
|2013-08-20||Certified Question filed|
|2013-08-20||Case Record Filed|
|State Office of Risk Management||
|Texas Mutual Insurance Company||
The Fifth Circuit certified this statutory interpretation question about workers compensation death benefits. By statute, the carrier has a subrogation interest to recover the amounts it had previously expended, as well as to treat the amounts recovered as a sort of advance against the carrier's future payment obligation. The question here is how that future payment obligation obligation is affected when there are multiple beneficiaries, who receive different fractions of the settlement, and to whom very different future payment streams are owed.
Here, the settlement involved a surviving spouse (who had remarried and thus would not receive any future payments) and the surviving children (who have a right to future payments). The settlment proceeds were apportioned by the district court with the largest share (about $350,000) going to the spouse and a smaller share (about $80,000) to the children.
The specific question is when the carrier's obligation to resume making payments to the children kicks in — is it when the benefits would have equalled $80,000 or can the carrier wait until the sum of those payments would have equalled the total of all benefits ($430,000). In other words, is this "statutory right to treat a third-party recovery as an advance against future benefits ... determined on a beneficiary-by-beneficiary basis or a collective-recovery basis"?
The Court held the latter, that the carrier's subrogation interest here was on a collective-recovery basis for a particular "claimant," which the Court viewed as covering the employee and all of his or her beneficiaries, collectively. So, here, the carrier can decline to make payments to the surviving children until those payments would exceed total the entire, collective recovery.
The Court noted, however, that its reasoning would not extend to two employees injured in the same accident that settled a joint lawsuit. In that situation, each of the employee's (and their respective families) would be a distinct "claimant" whose recovery would not affect the carrier's obligation to the other.