Delaware Workers' Compensation Case Update

04.29.14

Kaneshia Johnson v. Food Lion – Delaware Superior Court – 4.14.2014
Issue: Can an employer enforce a commutation when the claimant backs out prior to the Industrial Accident Board approving the settlement?
 
Holding: The Superior Court held that an employer can enforce a settlement when there has been a “meeting of the minds” between the parties that a settlement has been reached, and the settlement is in the best interests of the claimant.
 
Facts: The parties reached an agreement to resolve a disputed Workers’ Compensation claim by way of commutation for $25,000. The Board was advised of the settlement, and both parties cancelled medical depositions. Employer’s counsel forwarded the commutation paperwork, but it was not signed by the claimant. The claimant then discharged her attorney, and retained new counsel who reinstituted litigation pertaining to the Petition to Determine Compensation Due. The employer filed a motion to enforce the settlement.
 
The Industrial Accident Board granted the employer’s motion and enforced the settlement. The claimant appealed. The Superior Court determined on appeal that there had been a meeting of the minds between the parties, and that the settlement was in the best interests of the claimant. Therefore, the IAB’s decision was affirmed, and the settlement was enforced.
 
Recommendations: An employer may seek to have a settlement enforced when a claimant changes his or her mind, even absent signed commutation paperwork or IAB approval of the settlement. In Food Lion, the fact that the claimant changed counsel was still not enough to allow her to back out of the settlement.
 
The importance of documenting a settlement agreement in writing, immediately upon settlement, is paramount. This decision still allows some room for a claimant to back out of a settlement in that the IAB must still determine that the settlement is in the best interests of the claimant, and this can vary on a case by case basis. However, enforcement of a settlement can be sought through the Industrial Accident Board.
 
For more information please contact Geoffrey Lockyer at glockyer@wglaw.com or 215.972.7915.

Media Contacts

Sara L. De Long
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