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Schneider v. City of Lawrence

Court of Appeals of Kansas

February 8, 2019

Paul H. Schneider, Appellant,
v.
City of Lawrence, Appellee.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         1. The most fundamental rule of statutory interpretation is that the intent of the Legislature governs if the Legislature's intent can be determined. Appellate courts must first seek to discover the intent of the Legislature through the plain language of a statute before resorting to the canons of statutory construction.

         2. K.S.A. 44-534(b) requires workers compensation claimants to apply for a hearing within three years of the date of their accident or within two years of the date of the last payment of compensation. Nothing within the plain language of K.S.A. 44-534(b) prevents a revival of the two-year statute of limitations to timely file an application for a hearing after the running of the two-year statute of limitations when a payment of compensation occurs.

         3. Under the facts of this case, when the employer made a payment of compensation after the two-year statute of limitations to apply for a hearing had run under K.S.A. 44-534(b), the employer revived the employee's two-year-time period in which to file a timely application for hearing. As a result, the employee timely filed an application for a hearing within two years of the employer's last payment of compensation.

          Appeal from Workers Compensation Board.

          Bruce Alan Brumley, of Topeka, for appellant.

          Kip A. Kubin, of Martin Pringle, Attorneys at Law, of Overland Park, for appellee.

          Before Standridge, P.J., Pierron and Green, JJ.

          GREEN, J.

         Paul H. Schneider appeals the Workers Compensation Board's (Board) decision, finding that both of his claims against the City of Lawrence (City) Fire Department were untimely under K.S.A. 44-534(b). Because Schneider timely filed an application for hearing within the two-year period for the running of the applicable statute of limitations, we reverse the Board's decision and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         Schneider worked for the City's fire department. The parties do not dispute that he injured his back while working for the City on September 21, 2008, and September 27, 2010.

         On January 28, 2016, Schneider filed two applications for hearings, in which he asserted that he had a right to benefits under the Act. In the first application, Schneider stated that his work accident occurred while working for the City on September 21, 2008. In his second application, Schneider stated that his work accident occurred while working for the City on September 27, 2010. Schneider alleged that both of his injuries were to his low back and body as a whole. The City responded that it intended to deny Schneider's applications for benefits as untimely. Schneider asserted that his applications were timely because the City had provided him authorized medical care for back injuries on December 14, 2015. Schneider argued that the statute of limitations under K.S.A. 44-534(b) was revived upon the City's December 14, 2015 payment.

         At the regular hearing before the administrative law judge (ALJ), Schneider testified about his back pain becoming progressively worse after his 2010 injury. He explained that by 2015, it was difficult for him to work. He testified that he went to his personal doctor, Dr. David Fritz, and they discussed him having back surgery. This was the first doctor he had visited since his last physical therapy appointment paid for by the City on February 28, 2012. Schneider testified that his personal health insurance paid for his appointment with Dr. Fritz. Yet, he further testified that his personal health insurance denied his request for back surgery once it learned that his back pain stemmed from work-related injuries. He admitted that after his personal insurance denied his request for back surgery, he contacted the City, and the City sent him to its doctor, Dr. Chris Fevurly.

         During discovery, the City called two witnesses: Dr. Chris Fevurly and Gary Cooper, the City's risk manager.

         Dr. Fevurly testified that he had treated Schneider for the 20 years that Schneider had been employed with the fire department. He testified that he had also examined him annually for the firefighter fitness exam. He explained that for Schneider's 2008 and 2010 work injuries, he had treated Schneider for "spondylolysis of L5 and then spondylolisthesis grade two of L5 and S1." Dr. Fevurly testified that on December 14, 2015, Schneider returned for another examination, complaining of back ...


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