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Glaze v. J.K. Williams, LLC

Supreme Court of Kansas

April 19, 2019

Timmy Glaze, Appellant,
v.
J.K. Williams, LLC, and Commerce & Industry Insurance Company, Appellees.

         SYLLABUS

         Under K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 44-523(f)(1), a workers compensation claimant must move for an extension within three years of filing an application for hearing if the claim is to survive a proper motion to dismiss.

         Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in 53 Kan.App.2d 712, 390 P.3d 116 (2017).

          Appeal from Workers Compensation Board.

          Daniel L. Smith, of Ankerholz and Smith, of Overland Park, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellant.

          Ryan D. Weltz, of Wallace, Saunders, Austin, Brown & Enochs, Chartered, of Overland Park, argued the cause, and Christopher J. McCurdy, of the same firm, was with him on the briefs for appellees.

          Jan L. Fisher, of McCullough, Wareheim & LaBunker, of Topeka, was on the brief for amicus curiae Kansas AFL-CIO.

          PER CURIAM

         This appeal concerns the interpretation of K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 44-523(f)(1). The administrative law judge (ALJ), the Kansas Board of Workers Compensation (the Board), and a panel of our Court of Appeals concluded that this statute requires that a claimant file a motion for extension within three years of filing an application for hearing for the claim to survive a proper motion to dismiss. We agree with this interpretation and affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On December 5, 2012, Timmy Glaze filed an application for hearing with the Kansas Division of Workers Compensation, asserting that he fell and injured himself while working for J.K. Williams, LLC.

         On January 4, 2016, J.K. Williams filed an application for dismissal, stating that the ALJ should dismiss Glaze's claim pursuant to K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 44-523(f) because Glaze had "failed to move the claim towards regular hearing or settlement within three years" of filing his application for hearing. On January 29, 2016, Glaze filed a "request for extension of time to schedule out of state deposition and to schedule regular hearing." Glaze asserted that the case was not ready to proceed to final hearing, because "[d]ue to factors beyond the control of either claimant or his Kansas counsel," he had not been able to depose his psychologist.

         After a hearing, the ALJ granted J.K. Williams' application to dismiss on February 12, 2016. In its order, the ALJ explained that K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 44-523(f)(1) required the dismissal because Glaze had not moved for an extension within three years of filing his application for hearing.

         Glaze appealed the dismissal to the Board. The four-member board affirmed the dismissal, with one member dissenting. Glaze v. JK Williams, LLC and Commerce & Industry Ins. Co., No. 1, 063, 419, 2016 WL 2619518, at *3 (Kan. Work. Comp. App. Bd. April 11, 2016).

         Glaze appealed the Board's decision to the Court of Appeals. The panel affirmed the lower decisions. Glaze v. J.K. Williams, LLC, 53 Kan.App.2d 712, 390 P.3d 116 (2017).

         Glaze petitioned for this court's review of the following issues: (1) whether the panel erred in interpreting K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 44-523(f)(1) and dismissing his claim; (2) whether the panel erred when it held that K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 44-523(f)(1) requires dismissal of a claim when a motion to extend is not filed within three years of filing an application for hearing; and (3) whether the panel's interpretation of K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 44-523(f)(1) deprived him of due process under section 18 of the Bill of Rights of the Kansas Constitution. We granted review of his first two issues.

         Analysis

         There is no distinguishable difference between Glaze's points in the two issues he presents. In both, he offers arguments about how the panel erred in interpreting K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 44-523(f)(1), and many of those arguments overlap. For this reason, we address the issues as one.

         Standard of Review

         We conduct an unlimited review of issues of statutory interpretation, owing "no significant deference to the ALJ's or the Board's interpretation or construction." Bryant v. Midwest Staff Solutions, Inc., 292 Kan. 585, 587, 257 P.3d 255 (2001).

         Discussion

         When statutory language is clear and unambiguous, we simply interpret the words used by the Legislature. Ambrosier v. Brownback, 304 Kan. 907, 911, 375 P.3d 1007 (2016). "A statute is ambiguous when two or more interpretations can fairly be made." Petty v. City of El Dorado, 270 Kan. 847, 851, 19 P.3d 167 (2001). "If the language is less than clear or is ambiguous, we move to statutory construction and use the canons of construction and legislative history and other background considerations to divine the legislature's intent." Ambrosier, 304 Kan. at 911.

         The parties dispute the meaning of K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 44-523(f)(1).

         K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 44-523(f)(1) provides:

"In any claim that has not proceeded to a regular hearing, a settlement hearing, or an agreed award under the workers compensation act within three years from the date of filing an application for hearing pursuant to K.S.A. 44-534, and amendments thereto, the employer shall be permitted to file with the division an application for dismissal based on lack of prosecution. The matter shall be set for hearing with notice to the claimant's attorney, if the claimant is represented, or to the claimant's last known address. The administrative law judge may grant an extension for good cause shown, which shall be conclusively presumed in the event that the claimant has not reached maximum medical improvement, provided such motion to extend is filed prior to the three year limitation provided for herein. If the claimant cannot establish good cause, the claim shall be dismissed with prejudice by the administrative law judge for lack of prosecution. Such dismissal shall be considered a final disposition at a full hearing on the claim for purposes of employer reimbursement from the fund pursuant to subsection (b) of K.S.A. 44-534a, and amendments thereto." (Emphasis added.)

         The parties' disagreement and the panel's conclusion center on the third sentence: "The administrative law judge may grant an extension for good cause shown, which shall be conclusively presumed in the event that the claimant has not reached maximum medical improvement, provided such motion to extend is filed ...


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