JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline) – Missouri's state labor commission can refuse to approve a post-award settlement between Costco Wholesale and an employee who was injured on the job, the state Supreme Court has ruled.
The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in a May 22 opinion that the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission (LIRC) can refuse the approval of an agreement to commute the employee’s future award of benefits if the proposed lump sum isn’t equal to the commutable value of the future weekly payments appellant Andrew Dickemann is giving up.
The case stems from a lawsuit filed by Dickemann, who worked for Costco Wholesale Corp. until he suffered a work-related injury in July 2010. He was subsequently awarded weekly permanent total disability (PTD) benefits of $799.11 per week in April 2014.
In November 2016, the opinion states the parties agreed to commute the award to a lump sum settlement of $400,000. Dickemann signed the stipulation for voluntary settlement and agreement to commute award, acknowledging that he understood his rights and benefits, and that the agreement was voluntary and not the result of fraud or undue influence, the opinion states. Costco and Dickemann then presented their agreement to the LIRC for approval.
The commission denied approval in 2017, finding that the terms didn’t the requirements for a “commutation” under Missouri Revised Statutes Section 287.530.
On appeal, Dickemann argued that the commission was required to approve the agreement because it was entered into voluntarily and met the requirements of Section 287.390.1. The appeals court reversed the commission’s decision, saying Section 287.530 applies only when there is a contested claim for commutation.
The Supreme Court held that the commission lacked authority to approve the settlement under Section 287.390. The court also noted that statute requires a lump sum to be equal to the commutable value, which would have been at least $590,000 rather than the $400,000 lump sum proposed in the settlement between Dickemann and Costco.