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When Can an Employee Re-open a Settlement Based on Mutual Mistake of Material Fact?

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In a case before the Colorado Supreme Court, that question is answered. In England v. Amerigas Propane, (2017 CO 55), the Supreme Court considers whether a provision of the mandatory form settlement document required by the Director of the Division of Workers’ Compensation waives an injured employee’s statutory right to reopen a settlement based on mutual mistake of material fact.

Petitioner Victor England (“England”) was a truck driver for Amerigas Propane (“Amerigas”). He filed a worker’s compensation claim in 2012 after sustaining a serious injury to his shoulder while doing work for his employer, Amerigas. His claim was governed by the Colorado Worker’s Compensation Act, which requires that settlements between employer and employee must be written, signed by both sides, and approved by a Director or Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). The Director used a form settlement agreement (“Form”) that he required all parties to use in worker’s compensation claims. In this case, the settlement agreement signed was consistent with the Form, and it was signed and approved. England’s pain persisted into 2013, and he went back to the doctor. When he went, the doctor diagnosed a previously missed stress fracture to England’s scapula. Up to this point, neither party was aware of the stress fracture. England said had he known about the fracture, he would not have settled his claim as he did. An ALJ agreed with England that he should be able to reopen the settlement. The Court of Appeals did not. It reversed, stating that England had waived his right to reopen the settlement. England appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court examined the Form and found relevant language in paragraph four. It said, essentially, the parties will not reopen the claim unless there is fraud or mutual mistake of material fact. The late discovery of a fracture in England’s scapula was previously unknown, but was definitely a material fact. Therefore, the Supreme Court said based on paragraph four, England has a right to reopen his claim. The case was reversed and remanded with instructions.

The Metier Law Firm is committed to assisting people with personal injury claims throughout Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska, and we frequently serve as co-counsel to law firms nationwide. Tom Metier recently secured the largest personal injury verdict in Colorado.