Texas Supreme Court Overturns Two Lower Courts to Take Away Workers' Compensation Benefits

I've recently written regarding what terrible shape Texas' workers' compensation system is in. Last week more bad news for comp claimants in the form of a Texas Supreme Court decision overturning the judgment of a district court judge and the lower court of appeals. Dallas Nat’l Ins. Co. v. De La Cruz (Per Curiam)

In 2004, the employee was working for her employer when she fell, injuring her left knee and back. In 2009, she filed a claim for lifetime income benefits (LIBs) pursuant to section 408.161 of the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act claiming that her 2004 injury caused the total loss of use of both her feet at or above the ankle and that the loss of use was permanent. A hearing officer with the Division of Workers’ Compensation determined that Employee was not entitled to LIBs. The district court reversed and awarded LIBs. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and rendered judgment denying employee’s claim for LIBs, concluding that the court of appeals erred in determining that the evidence was sufficient to support the trial court’s judgment.

The court's decision turns on its interpretation that LIBs are only available in the context of this case due to injury to the feet and ankles. In this case the injury was to the back and knee. While the injury may cause the feet and ankles to be unusable, there is no physical injury to those structures themselves and therefore income benefits are not proper. 

Thus, Ms. De La Cruz will not receive lifetime income benefits despite the total loss of the use of her feet. Such is the protection workers can expect to receive from the great State of Texas' workers compensation system.

 

Download the opinion.