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Farris v. Express Services, Inc

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Divisions II, III, IV

March 7, 2018

WALTER FARRIS, APPELLANT
v.
EXPRESS SERVICES, INC. AND NEW HAMPSHIRE INSURANCE COMPANY, APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO.G603170]

          Goldberg & Dohan; by: Andy L. Caldwell, for appellant.

          Worley, Wood & Parrish, P.A., by: Melissa Wood, for appellees.

          Gruber, C.J., and Gladwin and Glover, JJ., join.

          MIKE MURPHY, Judge.

         Appellant Walter Farris appeals from the April 20, 2017 opinion of the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission) that found Farris's claim for additional benefits was barred by the statute of limitations. The Commission's opinion affirmed the opinion of the administrative law judge (ALJ). Farris's sole point on appeal is that his claim for additional benefits is not time-barred. We agree and reverse and remand

         Farris was injured on the job on May 12, 2014, when a crane fell on him. His employer, Express Services, Inc., initially paid benefits for the injury claim. Farris received medical treatment until he was released to full duty on April 28, 2015.

         Farris filed a Form AR-C for additional benefits on May 5, 2016. He incorrectly named Great Dane Trailers as the employer because he mistakenly believed that he worked for Great Dane Trailers since that was the physical location of his employment. In fact, he worked for Express Services, Inc., a temporary-employment agency, but was assigned to Great Dane Trailers. Once he realized the mistake, he filed an amended form AR-C on May 13, 2016. The Commission affirmed and adopted the ALJ's decision that Farris's claim for additional benefits was barred by the statute of limitations. Farris timely appealed.

         The only question on appeal is whether Farris's claim for additional benefits is time-barred because he mistakenly named the wrong employer in his otherwise timely filed claim.

         Arkansas Code Annotated section 11-9-702(b)(1) governs the time for filing a claim for additional compensation:

In cases in which any compensation, including disability or medical, has been paid on account of injury, a claim for additional compensation shall be barred unless filed with the commission within one (1) year from the date of the last payment of compensation or two (2) years from the date of the injury, whichever is greater.

         Thus, absent some action that tolled the statute of limitations, Farris's claim for additional compensation had to be filed within one year of April 28, 2015 (the date of the last receipt of medical benefits) or two years from May 12, 2014 (the date of injury). He filed the form AR-C for additional benefits naming the incorrect employer (Great Dane Trailers) on May 5, 2016.[1] He filed the amended form AR-C naming the correct employer (Express Services, Inc.) on May 13, 2016, one day after the statute of limitations had run.

         In Dillard v. Benton County Sheriff's Office, 87 Ark.App. 379, 192 S.W.3d 287 (2004), our court considered whether a form that was timely filed but contained a mistake tolled the statute. The mistake in Dillard involved a claimant checking the wrong boxes to indicate the claim was for initial benefits when it should have indicated it was for additional benefits. Our court noted that it was obvious that the claimant intended to file a claim for additional benefits and that "despite the fact that the wrong boxes were checked . . . because it was timely filed, [the claim] tolls the statute of limitations." Id.

         The employer argues that it was Farris's burden to file the form correctly and that he should have known his employer was Express Services, Inc., not Great Dane Trailers, because he submitted his timesheets to Express Services, Inc., and his paychecks were consistently issued by Express Services, Inc. However, our court has held that the determinative factor is the timeliness of filing of the form and that minor mistakes such as these ...


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