Maine WC Alert: Appellate Division Addresses Statute of Limitations for Injuries Predating Effective Date of Amended Version of § 306

Maine Workers' Comp Alert

In Bickmore v. Johnson Outdoors, Inc., WCB App. Div. No. 18-18 (May 14, 2018), Travelers appealed a decision granting the employee’s Petition for Award on a 2012 injury and a Petition for Award on a 2004 injury filed by Sentry Insurance, requiring Travelers to reimburse Sentry for 50% of benefits paid. The administrative law judge (ALJ) found that the most recent amendment to the statute of limitations, 39-A MRSA § 306(1) (Supp. 2017), does not apply retroactively to the 2004 injury and that the applicable statute of limitations, 39-A MRSA § 306 (supp. 2011), did not bar Sentry’s claim against Travelers.

The Appellate Division vacated the decision. It first found that the appropriate interpretation of 306(1) as amended in 2012 is:

“[E]xcept as otherwise provided in section 306, a claim is barred two years after the date of injury or, if within that two-year period the employee’s employer is obligated to file a first report under section 303 and fails to do so, two years from the date the employer files the first report.”

The operative events considered significant by the Legislature when enacting the 2012 amendment are: (1) the date the obligation to file a first report arises; and (2) the date the employer files a first report as required by the Act. Here, both the obligation to file a first report and the actual filing of the first report occurred after the effective date of the 2012 amendment. Therefore, the amended version of § 306 applied.

Although the Appellate Division agreed with the ALJ that there was no indication that the Legislature intended the amendment to apply retroactively, under the circumstances, the application of the amendment was prospective. Because Sentry’s claim regarding the 2004 injury was asserted over six years after Travelers made its last payment, and no first report of injury was required to be filed within that six-year period, it is barred by the statute of limitations.