Employers: Uninsured Employers

MONTANA SUPREME COURT DECISIONS
State Farm v. Bush Hog, 2009 MT 349, 353 Mont. 173, 219 P.3d 1249 [10/21/09] The WCA covers the rights between the employee and the employer, as well as the rights of each to make claims against third parties for work-related injuries.  The WCA gives the employer immunity from personal injury claims by its employees except where the employer is guilty of willful or malicious conduct or where the employer fails to provide the coverage required by the WCA.
State Farm v. Bush Hog, 2009 MT 349, 353 Mont. 173, 219 P.3d 1249 [10/21/09] The right of subrogation is accorded only to an “insurer,” as defined in the WCA.  Since an uninsured employer does not qualify as an “insurer,” the uninsured employer has no statutory right of subrogation.  The only relief provided to the uninsured employer under the WCA is that “[a]ny actual monetary compensation received by judgment or settlement by the injured employee or the employee’s beneficiaries under 39-71-509 or 39-71-515 may be offset by the uninsured employer against the employer’s remaining liability under those sections,” as set forth in § 39-71-518, MCA.
State Farm v. Bush Hog, 2009 MT 349, 353 Mont. 173, 219 P.3d 1249 [10/21/09] The objective of the WCA is to provide no-fault, wage loss benefits to the worker who suffers work-related injuries.  This system fails to the extent that the employer refuses to provide workers’ compensation insurance for his employee in accordance with the WCA.  If this employer were then allowed to seek indemnity or contribution from a third party to reduce the damages he owes to the injured employee, the employer has no incentive to comply with the WCA.  Cost/benefit should not inform the employer’s decision to not purchase workers’ compensation insurance.  If the employer chooses to roll the dice and loses, his recompense should be a financially painful experience.
 
MONTANA WORKERS' COMPENSATION COURT DECISIONS
Jensen v. Uninsured Employers' Fund [08/18/11] 2011 MTWCC 24 An employee cannot bring an action for benefits directly against an uninsured employer in the Workers’ Compensation Court, but must bring his action in District Court pursuant to §§ 39-71-515 and -516, MCA. Therefore Petitioner’s first-party petition against his employer is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction by this Court.
Raymond v. Uninsured Employers' Fund [09/19/08] 2008 MTWCC 45 An uninsured employer who was joined as a party via ARM 24.5.307A is properly dismissed where the UEF has not followed the procedure to seek reimbursement set forth in § 39-71-506, MCA.
Horizon Custom Homes v. UEF [02/14/07] 2007 MTWCC 8 Statutorily-defined uninsured employers and employers who do not fall into this category are not similarly situated because one class of employers has met its statutory obligation to provide workers’ compensation coverage while the other has not. By not obtaining coverage, uninsured employers place themselves in a separate class, and their injured workers are compensated by the “safety net” of the UEF.