A fascinatingly technical decision recently came out of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. The case is a good demonstration of the principle expressio unius est exclusio alterius.
William Moran was a Rhode Islander and employed by a construction company in that state. The company sent him to work on a construction project in West Virginia in January 2012. While there he died of carbon monoxide poisoning at a hotel. His wife lodged claims for worker’s compensation in both West Virginia and Rhode Island. Liability was accepted in both claims, although no benefits were actually paid on the West Virginia claim because the $711.30 weekly benefits which would have been payable were cancelled out by the $765.15 per week payable under the Rhode Island claim. West Virginia Code §23-2-1c(d) provides that
If any employee or his or her dependents are awarded workers’ compensation benefits or recover damages from the employer under the laws of another state for an injury received in the course of and resulting from the employment, the amount awarded or recovered, whether paid or to be paid in future installments, shall be credited against the amount of any benefits payable under this chapter for the same injury.
Mrs Moran subsequently reached a damages settlement with a number of defendants in connection with her husband’s death. Rhode Island law required her workers’ compensation benefits to be suspended. The quantum of the settlement was such that the suspension would be greater than her life expectancy. She then requested reinstatement of her West Virginia claim benefits. A claims administrator and two review bodies determined that her Rhode Island benefits, though suspended, still cancelled out any West Virginia benefits. Mrs Moran appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
The Court upheld the appeal. It concluded that the Code intended West Virginian benefits to be payable in a case such as Mrs Moran’s. The Code applied a credit only for workers’ compensation benefits or damages recovered from the employer. Absent reference to recovery from a third party, the legislature must have intended the section not to apply to such recoveries. Further, where payments were suspended, benefits were not being paid and so the section was not engaged.
Because W. Va. Code § 23-2-1c(d) does not provide that suspended benefits awarded under the laws of another state be credited against workers’ compensation benefits awarded pursuant to West Virginia law, it is not the proper role of this Court to create such a credit.
Moran v Rosciti Construction Co LLC (W. Va Sup. Ct App., 4 June 2018)