NFIB Defends Cap on Temporary Total Disability Benefits

Date: August 29, 2022

NFIB has joined other business groups in filing an amicus brief in a North Carolina case involving workers’ compensation claims. Click here to read it.

At issue in the case of Mary Betts v. North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services — Cherry Hospital and CCMSI, is a 500-week cap on temporary total disability (TTD) benefits. Betts was injured while working as a health care technician and claimed the injury had left her unable to work. In the amicus brief, filed in the North Carolina Court of Appeals, NFIB and other business groups say that the state correctly defined “total loss of wage-earning capacity” in its decision to deny the plaintiff extended benefits from a work-related injury.

In 2011, North Carolina passed House Bill 709, a major piece of workers’ compensation reform that NFIB supported. A major piece of HB 709, and the subject of this litigation, is eliminating lifetime damages for workers’ compensation claims and capping damages at 500 weeks. There is an exception to the 500-week cap when a worker is totally and permanently disabled, meaning a total loss of wage-earning capacity.

Based on the expert testimony, the North Carolina Industrial Commission concluded that Betts did not have a total loss of wage-earning capacity. Based on the plaintiff having the capacity to earn some wages, the Commission held that the defendants could terminate compensation on March 13, 2021. The plaintiff petitioned the North Carolina Court of Appeals for a review of the Commission’s denial of extended benefits.

NFIB maintains that “the language, spirit, and objective” of a state law passed in 2011 “was to bring North Carolina back in line with surrounding states and curb excessive indemnity costs, while still protecting the injured worker.” As such, NFIB’s amicus brief argues that the Commission’s definition of “total loss of wage-earning capacity” as “complete destruction of the ability to earn wages” is the only definition that comports with the intent of the legislature to curtail TTD payments made in North Carolina.

 

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