May 11, 2016 Article

Workers' Compensation Alert: Maine Supreme Court Rules on Maximum Benefits Payable in the Context of More Than One Injury

In Freeman v. NewPage Corporation, 2016 ME 45 (March 31, 2016) the Law Court affirmed an ALJ’s decision that an employee could not be awarded benefits over the maximum compensation rate even if the employee has suffered more than one work injury.

The Maine Workers’ Compensation Act’s maximum benefit provision states:

§ 211. Maximum benefit levels

Effective January 1, 1993, the maximum weekly benefit payable under section 212, 213 or 215 is $441 or 90% of state average weekly wage, whichever is higher. Beginning on July 1, 1994, the maximum benefit level is the higher of $441 or 90% of the state average weekly wage as adjusted annually utilizing the state average weekly wage as determined by the Department of Labor.

39-A M.R.S. § 211. Sections 212, 213, and 215 set forth methods for calculating various forms of benefits; each specifies that, in any event, the employer shall pay the injured employee “not more than the maximum benefit under section 211.” 39-A M.R.S. §§ 212(1), 213(1), 215(1).

In Freeman, an employee was injured at work in 2007. She returned to work but earned less money, in a different position. She received partial incapacity benefits on account of the decrease in wages. She suffered a second injury at work in 2011 which caused her to be unable to work. During a period of incapacity following the 2011 injury, Newpage paid 100% partial incapacity benefits based on the 2007 injury. Freeman filed a petition for award of compensation claiming that although she was already receiving benefits that equaled the maximum compensation rate as a result of her 2007 injury, she was eligible for additional compensation for the same period as a result of her 2011 injury. The Administrative Law Judge found the employee was ineligible for compensation beyond the statutory maximum benefit, regardless of the number of injuries. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Law Court affirmed, finding that the benefit calculation for each section is still subject to the “maximum benefit” in section 211, which does not provide for any exceptions to its “maximum” benefit, even in the context of more than one injury. Freeman makes clear that the statutory maximum benefit provision of the Act is a total ceiling on the potential benefits available to an injured employee, regardless of the number of injuries the employee suffers.

Firm Highlights


Maine WC Alert: MAE Unit Publishes Guidance on Compliance with Recent Amendments

The Maine Workers’ Compensation Board’s Monitoring, Audit & Enforcement Unit has issued a document to provide guidance on complying with certain recent amendments to the Workers’ Compensation Act in P.L. 2019, c. 344 (LD...


Maine WC Alert: WCB Orders Remote Hearings Unless In-Person Deemed Necessary

COVID-19 Concerns Prompt Maine WCB to Order That Hearings Be Conducted Remotely Unless It Is Deemed Necessary to Conduct a Hearing In-Person On March 25, 2020, the Maine WCB issued an order regarding the...


WC Alert: Recent Developments from Maine's Workers' Compensation Board

Frank A. Graf, MD, Reappointed to Approved List of § 312 Examiners At the February 11 meeting of the Maine Workers’ Compensation Board, Frank Graf, MD, was reappointed to the list of approved § 312...


Maine WC Appellate Division Addresses Refusal of Suitable Work and Notice

The Maine Workers' Compensation Appellate Division recently addressed cases dealing with refusal of suitable work and notice. Both decisions rely heavily on the specific facts of each case. In the context of a refusal...


Maine Workers' Comp Alert: WCB Announces New Nature and Cause of Injury Codes and FAQ for COVID-19

New Nature & Cause of Injury Codes The Maine Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) has updated the Injury Description Tables that are used by the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) to...


Preti Flaherty COVID-19 Resources

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Preti Flaherty's attorneys have maintained a constant stream of the most up-to-date information and resources for our clients, business partners, and others struggling to navigate these complex...


Update on COVID-19 and Maine Workers' Compensation

In this uncertain time, Preti Flaherty wants to assure you we are still providing full coverage for your Maine Workers’ Compensation and Longshore legal needs. This update briefly addresses current laws and also touches...


Maine WC Alert: Updated Version of Notice of Controversy (WCB-9) Must Be Used Effective February 1, 2020

Following the recent statutory changes to the Workers’ Compensation Act, the Maine Workers’ Compensation Board has updated the language in Box 22 of the Notice of Controversy. This new version should be used as...


Maine Workers' Comp Alert: Areas of Consideration Due to COVID-19

This alert addresses certain areas of concern with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and Maine Workers’ Compensation. This alert touches upon new issues to consider, issues of concern for existing claims, and general concerns...


Maine Workers' Comp Alert: WCB Transition to In-Person Hearings Likely to Occur No Sooner Than August 2020; Section 312 IME’s Have Resumed

A conference with Maine Workers' Compensation Board Executive Director John Rohde was held last week to discuss the transition to in-person hearings at the WCB. The WCB Subcommittees also met to discuss recent developments...