Claimant was injured while working as a linguist in Iraq. His claim was referred to the Office of Administrative Law Judges (“OALJ”) for adjudication, in part because of a medical payment dispute. Employer paid some of the medical bills in question after it received itemized statements. Believing that the disputed medical payment issue was resolved, Claimant and Employer/Carrier submitted Stipulations which outlined Claimant’s injury, medical treatment, entitlement to benefits, and Claimant’s responsibility to provide itemized invoices and statements for medical expenses. The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) then remanded the claim to the district director at the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation.
While the parties were resolving their issues, but before the ALJ remanded the claim, two doctors attempted to intervene in the Defense Base Act litigation. The doctors alleged that they had not been paid for their treatment of Claimant’s work injuries. After the ALJ remanded the claim, the doctors filed a motion for reconsideration which the ALJ ultimately denied. Remand was appropriate where only a “billing” dispute existed and the doctors could present their complaints to the district director. See, e.g., 20 C.F.R. §§ 702.413–414(c). Thus, the ALJ denied the doctors’ request for reconsideration and attorney’s fees. The doctors appealed, arguing that they were entitled to intervene at the OALJ level to secure payment of their bills.
The Benefits Review Board disagreed. There are two types of intervention contemplated by Rule 24 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: an intervention of right and a permissive intervention. An intervention of right is permitted if the intervenor has an interest in the property or transaction of the litigation which may be impaired and the putative intervenor’s interest is not adequately represented. Here, the doctors were not entitled to an intervention as a matter of right. The parties to the case stipulated that Employer was liable for benefits, thus there was no further factual dispute on that issue. The doctors did not demonstrate the existence of any additional issues for the ALJ to resolve. Plus, the ALJ correctly decided that the district director was the appropriate individual to consider payment of the doctors’ fees.
A court may grant the second type of intervention–a permissive intervention–if there is a timely motion, a common question of law or fact with the main litigation, and there will not be any undue delays or prejudice. Here, the doctors were not entitled to a permissive intervention. Again, after the parties stipulated that Employer was liable for medical benefits, no remaining factual disputes existed regarding the payment of medical treatment. Any recourse for the doctors would have to come from the district director.
(Note: I first published this post at Navigable Waters: A Maritime, Longshore and Defense Base Act Blog.)