Worker's Compensation Law: Amerisafe Risk Services, Inc. v. Estate of Wadsack

Amerisafe Risk Services, Inc. v. Estate of Wadsack (Ind. Ct. App. Nov. 9, 2012)

In this case, the Court of Appeals held that a party bringing against a worker’s compensation insurer and claims handler must first bring the claim before the Worker’s Compensation Board before proceeding in state court. The Court of Appeals, therefore, held that the trial court in this case properly dismissed the plaintiff’s claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

This decision is based primarily in the text of the Worker’s Compensation Act and a prior decision, Borgman v. State Farm Ins. Co, 713 N.E.2d 851, 853 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999), which held bad faith claims fell with the Worker’s Compensation Board’s exclusive jurisdiction. The decision clarified what was not entirely clear before: the exclusivity provision of the Worker’s Compensation Act applies to derivative claims, not only claims brought by an injured employee.

This case and the general principle of subject matter jurisdiction and the Worker’s Compensation Act are important for injured employees and their employees. Courts, especially Indiana’s appellate courts, take subject matter jurisdiction very seriously and insist on strict compliance with statutory schemes such as the Worker’s Compensation Act, which requires litigants to first pursue their claims before administrative bodies before resorting to state courts.

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