The South Dakota Department of Labor recently held that when a Petition for Hearing is not filed within two (2) years from the date of the denial letter, the claim cannot be reopened for a change in condition pursuant to SDCL 62-7-33. In Palmquist v. Luverne Truck Equipment, Inc. and Travelers Insurance, the Claimant’s medical benefits were denied via letter and no Petition for Hearing was submitted until after two years had passed from the denial. Claimant argued that a letter she filed with the Department prior to the denial letter should be considered a Petition for Hearing (the medical benefits were denied after benefits had been issued for a matter of years). The Department first analyzed the letter that Claimant sent to the Department in prior years to determine whether it included the necessary information to be considered a Petition for Hearing. In determining that the letter was not a Petition for Hearing, the Department relied on Administrative Rule 47:03:01:02 to hold that the letter did not contain the specific information required by the Rule. Since there was no prior Petition for Hearing on file, the Department then analyzed whether SDCL 62-7-33 applied to a claim where the two year statute of limitation applied.
It was undisputed that Claimant’s Petition for Hearing was filed after the two year statute of limitations had run. Claimant argued that her claim should be reopened under the change in condition statute found at SDCL 62-7-33 because she experienced a change in her physical condition after the two year statute of limitations had run. Claimant relied on language from Owens v. F.E.M. Electric Assn., Inc., 2005 SD 35, 694 N.W.2d 274, 280, when arguing that a change in condition after the expiration of the two year statute of limitations allows Claimant to continued workers’ compensation benefits. The Department denied Claimant’s request to reopen her claim and held that Claimant’s assertion flied in the face of the clear language of SDCL 62-7-35, which says all claims which have been denied in writing and for which no petition for hearing has been filed are “forever barred.” The Department also held that allowing a claim to be reopened under SDCL 62-7-33 would be contrary to the Legislature’s intent. Claimant also made equitable arguments to overcome summary judgment and the Department rejected them in their entirety.
This matter has been appealed and is currently set for oral arguments in Spring of 2017.