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Hogan v. NPC International, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Virginia

December 10, 2013

MICHAEL ANTHONY HOGAN
v.
NPC INTERNATIONAL, INC. #22 AND OLD REPUBLIC INSURANCE COMPANY

FROM THE VIRGINIA WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION

(Michael Anthony Hogan, pro se, on brief). Appellant submitting on brief.

Ramesh Murthy (John Honeycutt; Penn, Stuart & Eskridge, on brief), for appellees.

Present: Judges Petty, McCullough and Chafin Argued at Salem, Virginia

MEMORANDUM [*] OPINION

WILLIAM G. PETTY JUDGE

Michael Hogan appeals a decision of the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission denying his claim for benefits because it was barred by the statute of limitations. On appeal, Hogan contends that the commission erred in holding that his compensation claim was not timely filed and in denying his attempt to amend the accident date on his initial claim for benefits. For the reasons expressed below, we affirm the commission's decision.

I.

Because the parties are fully conversant with the record in this case and this memorandum opinion carries no precedential value, we recite below only those facts and incidents of the proceedings as are necessary to the parties' understanding of the disposition of this appeal. "On appeal from a decision of the Workers' Compensation Commission, the evidence and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from that evidence are viewed in the light most favorable to the party prevailing below." Artis v. Ottenberg's Bakers, Inc., 45 Va.App. 72, 83, 608 S.E.2d 512, 517 (2005) (en banc).

Hogan worked as an employee for Pizza Hut. On October 27, 2010, Hogan filed a claim for benefits for an injury he allegedly suffered at work while removing an item from an overhead shelf. Hogan listed November 5, 2008 as the date of injury. On April 8, 2011, Hogan filed another claim for benefits, contending that this was an amendment of the original claim, and listed October 29, 2008 as the date of injury. In an accompanying letter, Hogan said that he was "correcting an error involving the actual injury date" and clarified that November 5, 2008 was actually the date he had been "declared Permanently & Totally Disabled by the U.S. Social Security Administration."

NPC International Co. ("employer")[1] defended the claims, as it does here, on the grounds that the commission did not have jurisdiction to grant an award because Hogan failed to amend his claim within two years of the date of the accident. Employer also asserted, among other things, that Hogan failed to prove that he sustained a compensable injury by accident. Following a hearing, the deputy commissioner held that the commission did not have jurisdiction over Hogan's claim because it was filed after the two-year statute of limitations had run. The deputy commissioner found that Hogan's error "in referencing the incorrect date of accident in his initial Claim for Benefits was a purely personal one and cannot be imputed to the defendant." Therefore, "[t]he employer's jurisdictional defense [was] . . . well-founded and . . . dispositive of the claim."[2] On review, the full commission affirmed the deputy commissioner's decision. Hogan appealed to this Court.

II.

On appeal, Hogan argues that the commission erred in holding that his compensation claim was not timely filed and in denying his attempt to amend the accident date on his initial claim for benefits. For the following reasons, we disagree.

Although we review the evidence and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from it in the light most favorable to the prevailing party below, "we review questions of law de novo." Rusty's Welding Serv., Inc. v. Gibson, 29 Va.App. 119, 127, 510 S.E.2d 255, 259 (1999). "This Court is not bound by the legal determinations made by the commission. 'We must inquire to determine if the correct legal conclusion has been reached.'" Atlas Plumbing & Mech., Inc. v. Lang, 38 Va.App. 509, 513, 566 S.E.2d 871, 873 (2002) (quoting Cibula v. Allied Fibers & Plastics, 14 Va.App. 319, 324, 416 S.E.2d 708, 711 (1992)).

Code § 65.2-601 states, "The right to compensation under this title shall be forever barred, unless a claim be filed with the Commission within two years after the accident." "We have held in numerous cases that the limitation provision of [Code § 65.2-601] is jurisdictional and that failure to file within the prescribed time will bar a claim." Barksdale v. H.O. Engen, Inc., 218 Va. 496, 497, 237 S.E.2d 794, 795 (1977) (citing Shawley v. Shea-Ball, 216 Va. 442, 445-46, 219 S.E.2d 849, 852 (1975); Blue Diamond Coal Co. v. Pannell, 203 Va. 49, 122 S.E.2d 666 (1961); Winston v. City of Richmond, 196 Va. 403, 83 S.E.2d 728 (1954)); see also Stuart Circle Hospital v. Alderson, 223 Va. 205, 207, 228 S.E.2d 445, 447 (1982) (noting that "filing within the statutory period ...


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