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New York: Trying to "fix" suppressed defenses doesn't work.

An employer can deny a case for lack of notice, lack of employment, wrong carrier, or other jurisdictional or substantive reasons by filing a “notice of Controversy” (Form C-7). Once the C-7 is filed, the case will be set down for an expedited hearing within 30 days. The Act also requires that a “Pre-Hearing Conference Statement” (Form PH-16.2) must be filed 10 days before the Expedited hearing. See 12 NYCRR 300.38(f)(4). If the Pre-Hearing Conference statement is not filed on time, all defenses are waived.

We counsel our clients that if you are denying a case, file a Pre Hearing Conference statement at the same time – to avoid the potential for failing to file the Statement (Form PH-16.2) within the 10 days. There is just too much that can go wrong – late notice of the hearing date, no notice at all, etc! If you have enough information to justify a denial, you have enough information to fill out the Pre-hearing Conference Statement – so go ahead and file the PH-16.2 at the same time.

We think he best practice is to have outside counsel handle the entire process! More commonly, we see the carrier file a C-7, then refer the claim to outside counsel. This introduces delay and a possible dropped deadline into a time-sensitive process.

In March I reported on two cases where the Appellate Division upheld the suppression of defenses where the carrier failed to timely file the Pre-hearing Conference Statement. LINK

In a case decided September 29, 2011, the Appellate Division reviewed a situation where the employer denied the case (filed a C-7) but didn’t file the PH-16.2 within the time limits. To fix the mistake, counsel immediately filed an “amended notice of controversy” and argued that the originally-scheduled Pre-hearing Conference was therefore “premature” and should have been rescheduled, thereby making the PH-16.2 timely.

The Workers’ Compensation Law Judge refused to excuse the late fling, and stripped the employer of its defenses, ultimately establishing the claim.

In a decision dated September 29, 2011, the Appellate Division affirmed this outcome.

Best practice: be wary of the requirement that the Pre-Hearing Conference Statement be filed ten days prior to the expedited hearing – implement a plan to make sure this is done timely or risk a suppression of defenses!

Case: Butler v. General Motors, NY Slip Op 06634 (App. Div. 3d Dep’t, Decided September 29, 2011).

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