Claimant sustained a series of injuries to his neck, back and right knee which resulted in his filing ten claims against seven employers. Ultimately, the parties entered into a settlement agreement, which was submitted to an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on March 22, 2010. Nearly one month later, on April 20, 2010, the ALJ received an amendment to the settlement agreement which resolved the issue as to the apportionment of Claimant’s attorney’s fees. The ALJ’s decision approving the settlement was filed with the District Director on April 29, 2010. Payment was issued to Claimant on May 3, 2010, which he received on May 5, 2010. The issue before the Benefits Review Board (“BRB”) was whether or not Claimant was entitled to a Section 14(f) assessment for the late payment of compensation.
Claimant’s argument rested on a technicality. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act provides that, if the parties are represented by counsel, that a settlement is deemed approved if it has not been disapproved within 30 days after its submission. See 33 U.S.C. § 908(i)(1). The implementing regulation, 20 C.F.R. § 702.243(b), contains the same language…and a bit more. While it is true that the settlement submitted by represented parties could be deemed approved within 30 days, the settlement must nonetheless contain all of the information required by law. If it does not, the 30 day period does not start running. Among other requirements, a settlement must clearly indicate “amounts to be paid for compensation, medical benefits, survivor benefits and representative’s fees…” See 20 C.F.R. § 702.242(b) (emphasis added in BRB’s opinion, but citation corrected here). In this case, the settlement submitted on March 22, 2010, was deemed incomplete because the parties, Claimant included, submitted an amendment on April 20, 2010. The ALJ’s Order was filed within 30 days of having received the supplement. As such, the Order filed on April 29, 2010, controlled.
Section 14(f) applies to both decisions awarding benefits and approved settlement orders. See 33 U.S.C. § 914(f). An employer has 10 days from the date the Order approving the settlement is filed by the district director to pay benefits. If they do not, they could face a penalty of 20% of the compensation owed. Claimant’s argument failed because the BRB determined that the first settlement submission was incomplete, and could not be “deemed approved” as a matter of law. Instead, the controlling date for the Section 14(f) inquiry was April 29, 2010, when the Order approving the amended settlement was filed. Here, Claimant was paid on May 3, 2010, well within 10 days. He was not entitled to the Section 14(f) penalty.
(Note: I originally published this post on Navigable Waters: A Maritime, Longshore and Defense Base Act Blog.)