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IN THE WORKERS' COMPENSATION COURT OF THE STATE OF MONTANA
1999 MTWCC 70
WCC No. 9901-8127
SAMUEL J. GRENZ
FIRE & CASUALTY OF CONNECTICUT
ORDER ON APPEAL
¶1 Petitioner, Samuel J. Grenz, suffers from severe degenerative arthritis. He claims that his arthritis is work related and has been involved in litigation over his claim for over a decade. Various aspects of his claim have been the subject of numerous Court decisions. Those decisions are itemized in an appendix to the present decision.
¶2 The present case is a second appeal with respect to Grenz’s request for occupational disease (OD) benefits under his original, August 27, 1984 claim for compensation. In the first appeal, this Court reversed the Department’s initial determination that the claim is barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Grenz v. Fire and Casualty of Connecticut, WCC No. 9701-7693, Order on Appeal (July 7, 1997), aff’d on appeal, 1998 MT 35N.
¶3 Grenz has been pursuing benefits since 1984, when he filed a claim for an elbow injury. He later alleged that his elbow injury and subsequent microtrauma caused degenerative arthritis affecting numerous parts of his body. Those claims, pursued under the Workers Compensation Act, were rejected. Grenz v. Fire and Casualty of Connecticut, 250 Mont. 373, 820 P.2d 742 (1991) (Grenz I); Grenz v. Fire and Casualty of Connecticut, 260 Mont. 60, 857 P.2d 730 (1993) (Grenz III).
¶4 Grenz also pursued an OD claim based on alleged microtrauma occurring subsequent to his 1984 injury. That claim was rejected as untimely. Grenz v. Fire and Casualty of Connecticut, 278 Mont. 268, 924 P.2d 264 (1996) (Grenz IV).
¶5 Grenz then pursued his present case, alleging that he is entitled to OD benefits under his original 1984 claim. The Department dismissed the claim on res judicata grounds. I reversed. Noting that Grenz’s prior OD claim had alleged an OD arising subsequent to his 1984 claim, I held that the dismissal of that claim did not resolve his current claim for OD benefits under the 1984 claim. The Supreme Court affirmed in an unpublished decision. 1998 MT 35N (Grenz V).
¶6 My decision in the first appeal set out the issues to be decided upon remand, as follows:
Grenz, July 7, 1997 Order on Appeal at 12.
¶7 As set forth above, the first issue to be determined upon remand was whether Grenz’s 1984 claim presented “sufficient information indicating that an occupational disease may be involved.” If the claim were determined sufficient, then the Department was to consider other defenses which might bar the claim, otherwise it was to hold an evidentiary hearing on the merits.
¶8 Following remand to the Department, the insurer moved for summary judgment. On December 16, 1998, a Department hearing officer granted summary judgment and this appeal followed.
¶9 In granting summary judgment, the hearing officer found that Grenz’s 1984 claim did not state a sufficient claim for OD benefits. Based on that failure, and an alternative holding that Grenz is judicially estopped from asserting an OD claim under the rubric of his 1984 claim, the hearing officer once again dismissed his case. The present appeal followed.
Standard of Review
¶10 Since the decision below was one for summary judgment, the Court is in as good a position to judge the evidence as the hearing officer and judicial review is de novo. See Schmasow v. Native American Center, 1999 MT 49, ¶ 12.
¶11 The first question the Court must address is whether Grenz’s 1984 claim sufficiently states a claim for OD. If it does not, then he cannot pursue OD benefits under the 1984 claim.
¶12 The 1984 claim is found at Exhibit 1 of the insurer’s exhibits. It is dated August 27, 1997, and states that Grenz “BUMPED HIS ELBOW ON STEEL RAILING ON THE HAND GUARD. IT BECAME EXTREMELY SENSITIVE.” (Capitalization in original.) The claim unequivocally identifies a specific, single traumatic event involving claimant’s elbow. In lay terms, he simply bruised his elbow.
¶13 In his prior petition to this Court, Grenz alleged that “a claim is a claim is a claim.” Grenz, July 7, 1997 Order on Appeal at 2. Had his claim set forth facts and circumstances indicating something more than an elbow bruise, his argument might have some force. Certainly, he was not required to elect between the Occupational Disease Act and the Workers’ Compensation Act, and the claim form did not provide for such election. But he was required to set out basic facts which gave the employer and insurer reasonable notice that his condition may involve an OD. As stated in my prior decision:
Grenz, July 7, 1997 Order on Appeal at 12. The 1984 claim did not provide any facts which remotely suggested the possibility that Grenz was suffering from an OD.
¶14 Moreover, Grenz’s contention that his 1984 claim should be construed as encompassing a claim for OD benefits is disingenuous. As the Supreme Court noted in Grenz v. Fire and Casualty of Connecticut, 260 Mont. 60, 857 P.2d 730 (1993), prior to 1992 Grenz steadfastly maintained that his degenerative arthritis was attributable to the single event of bumping his elbow in 1984:
260 Mont. at 63-64, 857 P.2d at 732.
¶15 I therefore find that Grenz’s 1984 workers’ compensation claim did not encompass any claim for OD benefits. Accordingly, he cannot pursue OD benefits under that claim. In light of my finding, it is unnecessary for the Court to consider the hearing officer’s alternative holding that Grenz is judicially estopped from pursuing OD benefits under the 1984 claim.
¶16 1. The decision of the Department of Labor and Industry is affirmed.
¶17 2. This JUDGMENT is certified as final for purposes of appeal pursuant to ARM 24.5.348.
¶18 3. Any party to this dispute may have 20 days in which to request an amendment or reconsideration from this Order on Appeal.
DATED in Helena, Montana, this 9th day of November, 1999.
c: Mr. Samuel J. Grenz - Certified
A brief review of WCC records and SC records show the following cases. This may not be an inclusive list.
Samuel J. Grenz Cases in Workers’ Compensation Court:
Grenz v. American Timber
Co. WCC No. 8408-2619
Samuel J. Grenz Workers’ Compensation Cases in Montana Supreme Court:
Grenz v. Fire & Cas.
of Conn., 1998 MT 35N (decided February 18, 1998)
Various Supreme Court Orders Dismissing Samuel J. Grenz Cases
Grenz v. EBI/Orion Group,
89-283, Nonciteable, unpublished - 9/1989
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