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Lleras v. VIA Christi Regional Medical Center

April 6, 2007

DAVID A. LLERAS, APPELLEE,
v.
VIA CHRISTI REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER AND LIBERTY MUTUAL FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY, APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Workers Compensation Board.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. The interpretation of a statute is a question of law over which an appellate court has unlimited review.

2. The interpretation of a statute by an administrative agency charged with the responsibility of enforcing that statute is entitled to judicial deference. This deference is sometimes called the doctrine of operative construction.

3. If there is a rational basis for the agency's interpretation, it should be upheld on judicial review. However, the determination of an administrative body as to questions of law is not conclusive and, while persuasive, is not binding on the courts.

4. K.S.A. 44-501(h) is analyzed and applied.

5. The purpose of the workers compensation benefit offset under K.S.A. 44-501(h) is to prevent wage-loss duplication.

6. Under these facts, the Workers Compensation Board applied a rational interpretation of K.S.A. 44-501(h) in allowing the lump sum payment of the claimant's retirement benefits to be apportioned over his remaining live expectancy.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pierron, J.

Affirmed.

Before MARQUARDT, P.J., PIERRON, J., and KNUDSON, S.J.

Via Christi Regional Medical Center and Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company, (collectively Via Christi) appeal a workers compensation award in favor of David A. Lleras in light of Lleras' one-time lump sum distribution of retirement benefits. Via Christi argues the Workers Compensation Board (Board) erred in determining the proper offset amount by allowing Lleras' retirement benefits to be apportioned over his remaining life expectancy. We affirm.

The facts in this case are not disputed by the parties, and the single issue of law facing the court is a determination of how the offset provision of K.S.A. 44-510(h) in the workers compensation act applies to a one-time lump sum payment of retirement benefits. The factual findings of the Board were as follows:

"The facts are not in dispute. The parties agree that on November 4, 2003, claimant settled his claim with respondent for an April 29, 2003, low back injury. That settlement entitled claimant to receive permanent partial general disability benefits under K.S.A. 44-510e for a five percent whole person functional impairment. Within days of the settlement hearing, on November 7, 2003, respondent eliminated claimant's position and terminated him.

"The settlement agreement reserved claimant's right to seek review and modification of his workers compensation award. The parties agree that claimant's settlement award should be modified to increase claimant's permanent partial general disability ...


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