Record No. 1702-92-4
April 27, 1993
FROM THE VIRGINIA WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION.
Jerry O. Talton for appellant.
Ralph L. Whitt, Jr. (Barbara J. Balogh; Sands, Anderson, Marks Miller, on brief), for appellees.
Present: Judges Barrow, Willis and Fitzpatrick.
Argued at Alexandria, Virginia.
Pursuant to Code § 17-116.010 this opinion is not designated for publication.
Alice R. Grimes (claimant) appeals from a decision of the Workers' Compensation Commission (commission) dismissing her change of condition application for failing to submit medical documentation consistent with her claims. On appeal, claimant contends that due process requires that she be given an opportunity to file a brief in support of her position even if the evidence submitted is insufficient. We find that on the facts of this case, claimant was given the opportunity to present her evidence and failed to timely do so.
The parties are familiar with the facts of this case. Accordingly, we restate only those facts necessary to explain our holding. Claimant suffered an injury by industrial accident on December 19, 1988 and was awarded compensation. On July 22, 1991, claimant filed an application for a change in condition. Claimant failed to attach to her application supporting medical documentation nor did she include the dates of her alleged disability. On May 13, 1992, after three requests by the commission for the documentation had gone unanswered, the commission entered an order dismissing the claim.
On May 29, 1992, claimant filed a request for review of the dismissal. Chief Deputy Commissioner Tarr issued a review opinion, dated June 26, 1992, vacating the dismissal order and directing claimant to submit the necessary medicals within two weeks. Claimant was notified at that time that if the documentation was not forthcoming, her application would be dismissed. She then filed some medical reports on July 10, 1992, almost a year after her initial application. These documents included: a bill from Dr. Renas for services rendered during three office visits between June 24 and June 27 1991; the results of a spinal exam; and a four-page patient history completed by claimant. Claimant was seeking benefits for disability from June 21 through October 26, 1991.
After these documents were filed, the employer filed a motion to dismiss on the basis that none of the records submitted addressed the issue of disability. On July 27, 1992, the commission issued an opinion granting the employer's motion to dismiss, finding that
"[t]he documentation submitted by the employee is insufficient to support her application. Even considered in its best light, the documentation fails to establish any possible claim of entitlement to benefits for the period alleged. The employee was directed to file medical evidence supporting her present application or face dismissal. She has failed to do so and her application is therefore dismissed.
Claimant then filed another motion to reconsider the commission's last dismissal on the basis "that the Commission failed to grant or establish a time for submission of written briefs, and denied the claimant due process of law by dismissing the claim without following its normal procedures." The motion to reconsider was denied by the commission on August 25, 1992.
A review of the history of this case indicates that claimant suffered no lack of due process. In fact, for over a year, claimant and her counsel failed to supply the commission with the necessary information to docket this case. Her counsel was not prevented from stating his position in writing and he did so in two detailed letters to the commission requesting that they reconsider their decision in this matter. In addition, the commission did not prohibit claimant from filing a written brief of her arguments. Both the Supreme Court of Virginia and this Court have addressed the issue of an alleged denial of due process in the context of a review by the commission of a deputy commissioner's decision. See James v. Arlington Co. Board of Supervisors, 226 Va. 284, 307 S.E.2d 900 (1983); Henrico Co. School Board v. Bohle, 14 Va. App. 801, 803-04, 421 S.E.2d 8, 10 (1992).
In James, the Supreme Court held:
Where a question of law is all that needs to be resolved, it has often been held that the requirements of procedural due process are met where the party seeking review has the opportunity to state his views in writing.
226 Va. at 290, 307 S.E.2d at 903. The issue in James was the dismissal of a claim on the ground that it had not been timely filed. The claimant argued that he was entitled to an adversarial hearing on the issue of the commission's jurisdiction and that disposition of his case without hearing violated his due process rights. The Supreme Court held that the claimant's due process rights were not violated; that there was no need for an evidentiary hearing; and that "all James lost was the chance to restate that which was already adequately stated in his letter and other written communications to the commission." Id.
A similar situation exists in the case at bar. Claimant argues that she should have been allowed an opportunity to file briefs and participate in a hearing. However, like the claimant inJames, the fact that she did not have these opportunities was not a deprivation of her due process rights. Like the claimant in James, Grimes filed detailed letters with the Commission outlining her position, and the only question to be resolved was one of law, i.e., whether claimant had filed medical evidence sufficient to support her claim and allow her application to be docketed. Like the claimant in James, all Grimes lost was the opportunity to restate what she had already adequately stated in her other written communication to the commission. Accordingly, we affirm.