In a unanimous decision, the Mississippi Supreme Court recently reaffirmed prior holdings which found that when an injured employee returns to work in the same position at the same or higher rate of pay, there is a rebuttable presumption that the employee has not suffered a loss of wage-earning capacity. Representing the Employer and Insurance Carrier before the Supreme Court were Wilkins Patterson attorneys Joe Wilkins and Nick Garrard.
In Hudspeth v. Mitchell, the employee suffered an admittedly compensable work-related injury, but was able to return to work approximately six weeks later. After returning to work, the employee resumed her regular duties at the same rate of pay. After working for more than seven months without a complaint, the employee was terminated for cause unrelated to the injury. The employee then filed a petition to controvert with the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission.
The Administrative Law Judge, the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission, and Mississippi Court of Appeals (in a 5-5 decision) each held that the employee had suffered a loss of wage earning capacity based on her prior injury. After granting the Employer and Carrier’s Petition for Writ of Certiorari, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the prior rulings, finding the employee’s return to work created a rebuttable presumption that she had not suffered a loss of wage-earning capacity. The Court therefore remanded the case for new findings.
Presiding Justice Jess H. Dickinson authored the unanimous en banc decision. Click here to read the full opinion.