Does the legal doctrine of res judicata bar a plaintiff from seeking additional attendant care hours after a final decision by a magistrate?
We noticed an interesting Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission opinion regarding attendant care. It focused on whether a plaintiff could seek an increase in hours or pay after a final decision from a magistrate. Defendant argued that any claim was barred by res judicata, a legal doctrine that says an issue cannot be reopened once it has been judged on the merits.
By way of background: Attendant care is supposed to help with activities of daily living. Some examples include wound care, assistance with walking, bathing, using the bathroom, eating, dressing, and taking medications. It does not cover ordinary household tasks like taking out the trash or walking a dog. The cost of a professional nurse or skilled attendant must be paid by the insurance company.
Family members can be paid up to 56 hours per week for providing attendant care. A spouse, brother, sister, child, parent or any combination of these individuals can receive payment. A family member is generally entitled to the same hourly rate as a professional.
Disputes often arise regarding the amount of attendant care that is needed and how much should be paid. Insurance companies fight these claims because of the enormous expense that can occur. We have seen some cases where attendant care is actually more than wage loss benefits.
The Appellate Commission in Head v. Chrysler Group LLC (2015 ACO # 1) reiterated that res judicata applies to workers’ compensation cases. It ultimately rejected defendant’s argument finding that plaintiff only has to show attendant care is reasonable when it is needed. While plaintiff did not offer proofs at the original hearing to justify the amount of attendant care, the magistrate did recognize plaintiff’s statutory right to such benefits. Based upon the evidence presented, it was found an increase in hours and pay would be supported. You can read the full decision here.
Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers never charges a fee to evaluate a potential case. Our law firm has represented injured and disabled workers exclusively for more than 35 years. Call (855) 221-2667 for a free consultation today.
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Bill David Brooks.Tags: Michigan workers comp lawyers