Smith v. Hannaford Brothers Co.

Background:
Smith injured her back in 1986, bilateral upper extremities in 1997 and her
left thumb in 2002 while working for Hannaford. The parties filed petitions to determine the extent of permanent impairment and the hearing officer issued a Decree adopting the opinion of the Section 312 medical examiner that Smith suffered from 10% permanent impairment for the 1986 back injury, 17% to the 1997 upper extremity injury and 2% to the 2002 thumb injury. This resulted in 27% combined whole person permanent impairment.

Hannaford appealed both the hearing officer’s finding that Smith suffered 17% impairment as a result of the 1997 injury and that permanent impairment associated with the 1986 injury could not be stacked. However, the Law Court granted appellate review on the stacking issue only.

Court ruling:
The Law Court dismissed the appeal as moot. The Law Court denied appellate review of the hearing officer’s decision that the employee suffered 17% permanent impairment as a result of the 1997 injury, making the hearing officer’s decision final. As a result, even if Hannaford was right that the 10% impairment from the 1986 injury could be stacked, the 17% impairment from the 1997 injury alone exceeded the statutory level threshold of 13.2% which entitled the employee to receive partial incapacity benefits beyond the durational limit established in Section 213(1).

Hannaford argued that this case fit within one of the exceptions to the mootness doctrine but the Court preferred to wait for a case with the right set of facts before deciding this issue.

View complete text of Gail Smith v. Hannaford Brothers Co.