Moreau v. Transportation Insur. Co.

Moreau v. Transportation Insur. Co., 2018 MT 1 (Jan. 2, 2018) (McGrath, C.J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the Workers’ Compensation Court erred in granting summary judgment to Transportation Insurance Company.

Short Answer: No.

Affirmed

Facts: Moreau’s husband, Edwin, worked for W.R. Grace in Libby from 1963-1992. In 2009, Edwin died from asbestos-related lung cancer.

In 2000, Grace established the Libby Medical Plan to pay medical expenses for employees injured by asbestos. The Plan paid about $95,000 of Edwin’s medical expenses. In September 2012, as part of Grace’s bankruptcy, certain rights and duties of the Plan were transferred to the Libby Medical Plan Trust. Grace remained responsible for the Plan’s ongoing obligations incurred before that time.

In 2010, Moreau, as PR of Edwin’s estate, filed a work comp claim for occupational disease benefits. Transportation Insurance Company, Grace’s work comp insurer, denied the claim. In 2012, Moreau petitioned the work comp court for a determination of Transportation’s liability for medical expenses arising out of Edwin’s occupational disease. Transportation accepted liability and settled with Moreau in 2013. It agreed to reimburse Medicaid, other providers, and Moreau personally for medical expenses related to Edwin’s care. Transportation did not reimburse the Plan because the Plan refused to accept the $95,846 payment.

Moreau demanded that Transportation pay the $95k to Edwin’s estate, the Plan or its successor, or a charity chosen by the estate. Transportation refused. Moreau petitioned the work comp court, which determined further payment would be a double recovery, and Moreau therefore lacked standing. On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded.

Procedural Posture & Holding: On remand, the work comp court determined that paying an injured worker for medical expenses already paid by an entity not seeking reimbursement is not “furnishing medical services” under § 39-71-704, MCA. It concluded that Shepard v. Midland Foods, Inc. controls, and granted summary judgment to Transportation. Moreau appeals, and the Supreme Court affirms.

Reasoning: The work comp court correctly determined it lacked jurisdiction to determine the rights or duties of the LMP Trust, which was not a party to this action, as there is no justiciable controversy.

Moreau argues the estate should be paid on the basis of the made-whole doctrine. However, that doctrine within the context of work comp prohibits subrogation of any tort damages recovered by the worker against a third party. It is not applicable here. The Court agrees that Shepard controls.