On Friday, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals released its opinions concerning three petitions for mandamus that arose out of an action for contempt.
Specifically, the plaintiff was awarded permanent and total disability benefits in a 2012 lawsuit against his employer. In 2020, the employee filed a post-judgment motion for contempt due to the alleged systematic late payment of his weekly benefits.
Although the lion’s share of the opinion addressed procedural and jurisdictional matters not specific to workers’ compensation, Judge Terry Moore pointed out, in his dissenting opinion, that the Legislature already provided for a remedy when indemnity payments are delayed.
Alabama Code Section 25-5-59(b) provides for an automatic 15% penalty if any indemnity payment that is owed is not paid within 30 days.
Further, Section 25-5-86(1) provides that, if an employer defaults on its obligation to pay indemnity benefits, the employee can petition for the remaining payments to be accelerated, reduced to present value, and paid in lump sum.
As such, it was Judge Moore’s opinion that the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act precludes an employee from using a contempt proceeding as an additional remedy when indemnity payments are not timely made.
Mike Fish is an attorney with Fish Nelson & Holden LLC, headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama. This entry is republished, with permission, from the firm's Alabama Workers' Comp Blawg.
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