Jose Luna v. Turf Pro, Inc., IAB Hearing No. 1368492 (October 4, 2011) (Order)
Employer filed a motion to dismiss Claimant's Petition to Determine Compensation Due, filed on May 27, 2011, on the basis that the Petition alleged a May 13, 2009 work injury and was barred by the applicable two-year statute of limitations set forth in 19 Del. C. § 2344. Claimant argued that Employer had already made payments with respect to the claimed injury and the five-year statute of limitations set forth in 19 Del. C. § 2361(b) should apply.
Claimant testified that he injured his right foot at work on May 13, 2009, when stepping off the back of a truck. Claimant's supervisor drove him to Christiana Hospital emergency room for treatment that same day. When Claimant received the hospital bills for the ER visit, they were paid by Employer, but the money for the bills was deducted from Claimant's paychecks. Claimant agreed that he never completed an accident report or reported the injury to the office manager or owner of the company. The owner of the company testified that the medical bills were not paid as workers' compensation or for a compensable work injury. He was unaware that the physical issues that Claimant developed with his leg on May 13, 2009 were allegedly due to a work injury. Rather, the medical bills were paid as a loan to Claimant so that he could avoid the collections process. Loan documents were prepared but never actually executed by Claimant. However, the actual checks written to pay the hospital bills had payment stubs expressly stating that the payments were a loan to Claimant.
The Board held that under these circumstances, it was clear that the medical bills were not paid pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act or under a sense of compulsion to pay under the Act. Further, the Board rejected Claimant's argument that Employer should have followed the "payment without prejudice" procedure set forth in the Act, noting that Employer would have had to first know that there was at least an alleged work injury before it could make a payment without prejudice. Therefore, the Board dismissed Claimant's Petition as time-barred under section 2361(a).