Cases Discussed: Supreme Court Cases: Belton v. Carlson Transport

Travelers Indemnity Company of Illinois v. Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company (Abfalder), 2003 MT 180 In both Belton v. Carlson Transport, 202 Mont. 384, 658 P.2d 405 (1983) and its progeny, Stangler v. Anderson Meyers Drilling Co., 229 Mont. 251, 746 P.2d 99 (1987), the claimants were injured on multiple occasions, while working for different employers. The issue was whether the claimants had reached maximum medical healing, which was key to the determination of which employer's insurer was liable. In both cases, the Supreme Court found that the claimants had reached MMI after their first injuries and before their alleged second injuries, thus holding that the first insurers were not responsible for the second injuries. Travelers v. Nationwide (Abfalder), 2003 MT 180 (No. 02-482) is distinguishable because (1) the earlier two cases involved two employers; and (2) those decisions were superseded by section 39-72-303, MCA, which the Legislature added in 1993. Under section 39-72-303(2), MCA, liability rests with the insurer providing coverage at the earlier of the time the occupational disease was first diagnosed or the time the employee knew or should have known that the condition was the result of an occupational disease.
MCCF v. Liberty NW and Rusco [7/30/03] 2003 MTWCC 54 In light of Abfalder v. Nationwide Mutual Fire Ins. Co., 2003 MT 180, this Court's prior holding in Liberty Northwest Ins. Corp. v. State Compensation Ins. Fund, 2001 MTWCC 56, 36, is overruled to the extent it conflicts with Afbalder and the decision in this case. Where a claimant arguably aggravates a preexisting injury in a subsequent work-related incident, and there is a dispute between insurers as to whether the subsequent injury is permanent or merely temporary, or whether it or the prior injury is the cause of the claimant's current condition and disability, or whether the claimant had reached maximum medical improvement, the insurer for the subsequent injury is liable for benefits "until it proves, or until another insurance company agrees, that it [the other company] should pay the benefits." Belton v. Carlson Transport, 202 Mont. 384, 658 P.2d 405, 409-10 (1983).
Ostwald v. Plum Creek Manufacturing [12/19/95] 1995 MTWCC 107 Belton is an exception to the more general rule that the employer and insurer take the worker as they find him and has not been extended to situations where no prior claim has been filed or where no insurer is already liable for the existing condition