Your case has gone to trial. The administrative law judge has issued an award. Now what? Can the award be appealed?
If the award is a “Temporary or Partial Award”, the answer is MAYBE. If the award is not a “Temporary or Partial Award”, the answer is YES. All final awards are subject to appeal.
Appeals of Final Awards
The first appeal from a final award is to the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission. The “Commission” is a three-member panel that reviews the awards of the administrative law judges in workers’ compensation cases. Any party to the case may appeal by filing an “Application for Review” with the Commission. The application for review must be filed with the Commission within twenty calendar days of the date of the award. The Commission will ask the court reporter to make a complete transcript of the trial proceedings. The Commission will require that legal briefs be filed. The Commission does NOT hold a new trial. The Commission reviews the judge’s award, the transcript and the briefs. If the Commission agrees completely with the judge’s award, it may adopt the judge’s award as its own. If the Commission disagrees with the judge’s decision, in whole or in part, the Commission will issue a new award.
A second appeal may be requested by any party after a final award by the Commission. This is done by filing a timely Notice of Appeal to the Missouri Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals does NOT hold a new trial. The Court of Appeals will review the transcript of the trial proceedings before the administrative law judge. The Court of Appeals will require the parties to file additional briefs, and those will also be considered. The Court of Appeals may allow the lawyers for the parties to appear for oral arguments. The Court of Appeals will then issue its decision in the case. The Court of Appeals can only change or reverse the Commission’s award on legal issues. The Court of Appeals must accept the Commission’s findings of fact.
There is a possibility of a third appeal in some cases. The Missouri Supreme Court may accept a case for a third appeal. This is extremely rare, and only happens in cases involving significant legal issues.
Appeals of Temporary Awards
When an administrative law judge issues a “Temporary or Partial Award”, any party may file a timely application for review to the Commission. However, if the Commission believes that the employer’s liability was not a contested issue at the trial, the Commission may dismiss the application for review.
If the Commission does not dismiss the application for review, the Commission reviews the judge’s award in the same manner as is done with a final award. After review, the Commission may issue a “Temporary or Partial Award”, or it may issue a final award. If the Commission issues a final award, there may be a second appeal as described above. If the Commission issues a “Temporary or Partial Award”, any party may file a notice of appeal to the Missouri Court of Appeals. However, the Court of Appeals may not allow the appeal to continue. Until recently, the courts of appeal have allowed appeals of “Temporary or Partial Awards” to proceed in some circumstances. However, two recent decisions by the Missouri Court of Appeals Southern District and the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District stated that ONLY final awards were subject to appeal. In both of those cases, the appeal of a “Temporary or Partial Award” was dismissed.
No Appeal from a Settlement
PLEASE NOTE: If an administrative law judge has approved a settlement in your workers’ compensation case, you cannot appeal the approval of the settlement to the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission. If there was a clerical error in your settlement, the judge has twenty days from the date of the settlement to correct the clerical error only. The judge cannot void or invalidate an approved settlement. The judge cannot change the amount of the settlement once it has been approved.
Understand Your Rights and Obligations: You Have the Right to Consult With a Lawyer
Appeals of workers’ compensation cases are complex legal matters that require legal expertise. If you have any questions about the issues discussed above, you may consult with a lawyer. If you are unable to locate a lawyer who practices workers’ compensation law, you may wish to contact the Missouri Bar Lawyer Referral Service at 573-635-3635, the St. Louis Metropolitan Bar Lawyer Referral Service at 314-621-6681, the Springfield Metropolitan Bar at 417-831-2783.
It should not cost you anything to consult a lawyer. Lawyers who regularly practice workers’ compensation law offer free initial consultations. For more information, see Obtaining A Lawyer on this website.