Superior Court County: King. Superior Court Cause No: 12-2-01969-0.SEA. Date filed in Superior Court: December 18, 2012. Superior Court Judge Signing: James E. Rogers.
Robert W. Ferguson, Attorney General, and Annika M. Scharosch, Assistant, for appellant.
Gilbert M. Stratton (of Pratt Day & Stratton PLLC ); and Michael J. Costello (of Walthew Law Firm ), for respondents.
AUTHOR: Leach, C.J. WE CONCUR: Verellen, J, Grosse, J.
[180 Wn.App. 429] ¶ 1 The Department of Labor and Industries (Department) appeals a superior court judgment ordering the Department to pay from the second injury fund the costs of Patricia Doss's ongoing postpension medical treatment. The Department claims that the Boeing Company, as a self-insured employer, must pay these costs because Doss is permanently and totally disabled due to the combined effects of her preexisting disabling condition and chemical exposure at Boeing. Because the unambiguous language of RCW 51.16.120(1), consistent with the second injury fund's purpose, requires the Department to pay these costs, we affirm.
¶ 2 In March 2000, Doss filed an application for workers' compensation benefits with the Department, alleging that chemical exposure while employed at Boeing permanently aggravated her preexisting symptomatic asthma. On June 17, 2008, the Department determined that Doss was permanently [180 Wn.App. 430] and totally disabled as of May 14, 2008, as a result of the combined effects of her industrial exposure and her preexisting condition. The Department awarded her a pension and also authorized ongoing postpension medical treatment for her asthma.
¶ 3 The Department granted second injury fund relief to Boeing but also authorized ongoing medical treatment for Doss's asthma. On July 27, 2010, the Department, by letter, directed Boeing to pay the entire cost of this treatment. Boeing appealed this letter to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals (Board), which affirmed the Department. Boeing next appealed to the superior court.
¶ 4 The superior court reversed the Board's decision, concluding, " Ms. Doss' post pension treatment benefits are properly payable from the Second Injury Fund, and are not the responsibility of Boeing." The Department appeals.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
¶ 5 When the Board reviews a case on stipulated facts, any remaining issues present questions of law, which we review de novo.
¶ 6 This case presents a single issue: should the cost of Doss's postpension medical care be paid by Boeing or by the Department from the second injury fund. The Department claims, " [T]he superior court erred because it ordered the Department to pay for the costs of a self-insured employee's post-pension medical treatment with funds that are not collected for or devoted to such a purpose." Boeing responds, " Both the language of the Second Injury Fund statute and the Department's own self-promulgated regulations show [180 Wn.App. 431] that Employers, when Second Injury Fund relief has been granted, are only responsible for the accident costs that resulted solely from the Claimants' industrial injury or disease." We agree with Boeing.
¶ 7 In Washington, every employer must secure the payment of workers' compensation by either " '[i]nsuring and keeping insured the payment of such benefits with the state fund'" or by qualifying as a self-insurer under chapter 51.14 RCW. If an employer maintains industrial insurance through the state, the Department collects premiums from the employer to support medical aid and accident funds. Injured workers receive medical benefits through the medical aid fund. The accident fund provides benefits to workers who suffer injuries on the job or to ...