Limitations Periods: Reopening of Settlements

MONTANA SUPREME COURT DECISIONS
Preston v. Transportation Ins. Co. [12/01/04] 2004 MT 339 (No. 02-522) The two-year limitations period for filing a claim to reopen a workers’ compensation settlement tolled during the sixty-two days between claimant’s petition for meditation before the Department of Labor and the issuance of the mediation report. Hence, claimant had an additional sixty-two days within which to file her petition to the Workers’ Compensation Court and that the Court erred by finding her claim time-barred.
Miller v. State Fund, 2000 MT 19N (unpublished, nonciteable opinion.) In an unpublished, nonciteable opinion, Supreme Court affirmed WCC conclusion that two-year statute of limitations of section 27-2-203, MCA (1983) barred injured worker's attempt to reopen settlement on basis of mistake of fact regarding his ability to operate a ranch where claimant knew the back condition preventing his ranch work existed more than two years before filing petition to reopen.
Martin v. State Comp. Ins. Fund, 275 Mont. 190 (1996) (No. 95-290) In the unique context of Supreme Court decisions discussed in Wolfe v. Webb, 251 Mont. 217, 824 P.2d 240 (1992), which indicate that rules regarding jurisdiction to reopen workers’ compensation settlement agreements are procedural rules, the Workers’ Compensation Court has jurisdiction to set aside final settlement agreements even if the agreement was initially subject to the four-year limitation period on reopening settlements set out in section 92-848(4), R.C.M. 1947 (1975).
 
WORKERS' COMPENSATION COURT DECISIONS
Frazer v. Montana State Fund [07/20/05] 2005 MTWCC 41 Where a claim was denied for the claimant’s alleged failure to timely report his industrial injury to his employer, the claimant then settled with the insurer on a disputed liability basis, and the claimant has consistently maintained since the time of the accident that he timely reported the accident to his employer, the limitations period for reopening the settlement began at the time the settlement was executed since the claimant had knowledge which should have led him to seek further evidence which would have supported his claim. Prior to the settlement he should have identified and interviewed the supporting witnesses he now proffers in support of his request to reopen.
Oens v. Employee Benefits Ins. Co. [6/5/03] 2003 MTWCC 40 While the two-year statute of limitations ( 27-2-203, MCA) applies to a claim to reopen a settlement agreement, the statute does not begin to run until claimant discovers facts constituting the mistake or becomes aware of circumstances such that he would have discovered the mistake with reasonable diligence. While full development of the record may lead the Court to infer that claimant knew or should have known more than two years before the petition was filed of an alleged mistake giving rise to the claim to reopen, the Court declines to make such inference on a motion for summary judgment.
Preston v. Transportation Inc. [4/17/02] 2002 MTWCC 23 The two-year limitation period for filing a petition to reopen a settlement, § 27-2-203, MCA, is tolled where a mediation request is filed within the two-year period and the pendency of mediation precludes filing with the Workers' Compensation Court within the two years. It does not extend the limitations period where mediation is completed prior to expiration of the two year period. [Note: the Supreme Court reversed the Workers' Compensation Court's holding that mediation does not toll the two-year limitations period in Preston v. Transportation Ins. Co., 2004 MT 339 (No. 02-522).]
Preston v. Transportation Inc. [4/17/02] 2002 MTWCC 23 A request for reopening of a workers' compensation settlement based upon alleged mutual mistake of fact must be made within two years of discovery of the mistake or within two years of when the mistake should have been discovered. § 27-2-203, MCA. [See Preston v. Transportation Ins. Co., 2004 MT 339 (No. 02-522), affirming the Workers' Compensation Court on this ground.]
Miller v. State Fund [5/6/99] 1999 MTWCC 34.1Pro se claimant requests rehearing of Court's decision that his request to reopen a settlement is barred by the statute of limitations. (See Miller v. State Fund, 1999 MTWCC 21.) In a paragraph to paragraph response to the Court's findings and conclusions, he explains that he was unaware of his right to reopen the settlement after it was made. If claimant were arguing that his settlement was made based on a mistake of law, an issue for resolution may be presented. His argument, however, is that he was ignorant of the statute of limitations and his right to move to reopen within the limitations period. Ignorance of the law does not toll the statute of limitations. Wisher v. Higgs, 257 Mont. 132, 140, 849 P.2d 152, 157 (1993).
Miller v. State Fund [3/11/99] 1999 MTWCC 21 Claimant's demand to reopen his 1988 settlement agreement for mutual mistake of fact regarding his ability to work a ranch is barred by the two-year limitations period of section 27-2-203, MCA. Although the statute does not commence running until the claimant discovers facts constituting fraud or mistake, actual knowledge of mistake is not necessary; the statute commences when the claimant would have discovered the mistake had he used reasonable diligence. Here, claimant was aware within a year or two of his settlement that he could not physically work a ranch. Further, claimant and his attorney were aware of the relationship between his back condition, which prevented his ranch work, and his injury by as early as 1995. The petition was not filed until more than three years after that date.
Hayes, Thompson Owen, Sleath and Truesdell v. State Fund [1/21/99] 1999 MTWCC 7 A petition to reopen a workers' compensation settlement because of mutual mistake of fact is subject to the two-year limitations period set out in section 27-2-203, MCA. The statute commences running when the facts are such that the party bringing the action would have discovered the mistake had he or she exercised ordinary diligence. Here, as shown by allegations in an amended complaint filed in a civil action in District Court, petitioners were aware more than two years before filing the WCC petition that they were exposed to Dursban and that Dursban causes some of the specific health problems about which they complained. A petition alleging mutual mistake in the form of ignorance of those facts is time-barred.