A WCJ awarded applicant, Jeffrey Molina, temporary and permanent disability compensation and further medical treatment against Hartford Fire Insurance Co., which had previously stipulated to have provided workers’ compensation insurance coverage to the employer Fred Loya Insurance, at the time of his injuries.
At some point, Hartford concluded that the correct carrier for this injury was Zurich American Insurance Company. Hartford petitioned to have Zurich joined as a party in order to have Zurich assume responsibility for the payment of the claim.
The WCJ declined to join Zurich, and to relieve Hartford of its stipulation to insurance coverage.
Hartford contended in its petition for reconsideration that the WCJ erred in not relieving Hartford of its stipulation.
The WCJ issued a report in which she recommended that reconsideration be denied.
Subsequently, at the request of the WCAB panel, applicant and Hartford participated in a “commissioners’ settlement conference.” Zurich also participated in the commissioners’ settlement conference even though it had never been joined as a party defendant in these cases.
The outcome of the commissioners’ settlement conference was that applicant, Hartford and Zurich agreed to resolve applicant’s claims in these cases and Hartford’s potential claim for contribution against Zurich by compromise and release.
The Compromise and Release provided that Hartford was to pay applicant $120,000, less permanent disability indemnity previously paid of $47,187.79, and less an attorneys’ fee of $18,000, leaving $54,812.21 payable to applicant in a lump sum.
Hartford agreed to adjust or litigate liens of record with jurisdiction reserved. In addition, Hartford and Zurich agreed that the latter will pay Hartford $30,000 in full satisfaction of any claim for reimbursement or contribution Hartford may have against Zurich.
The WCAB panel thus granted reconsideration, and rescinded the Findings and Award in the panel decision of Molina v Hartford Fire Insurance Co. (ADJ7922408 ADJ8924319 ADJ8924320) and approved the Compromise and Release.
The three member WCAB panel concluded with the comment “we commend the parties for engaging in good faith negotiations and successfully resolving this matter without the need for further litigation.”
Thus, the commissioners settlement conference may become an evolving tool in workers’ compensation litigation to resolve disputes.