After years of litigation, on February 3, 2023, the question of whether the 500-week cap under D.C. Code § 32-1505(b) applies individually to each different type of indemnity benefit or whether the 500-week cap is applied as an aggregate of both temporary total disability benefits as well as “non-scheduled” permanent partial disability benefits was answered by the Compensation Review Board. Hughes-Turner v. D.C. Dep’t of Empt., Servs., 277 A.3d 1282 (D.C. 2022).
The District of Columbia’s Workers’ Compensation Act, D.C. Code §§ 1501-1545, allows for monetary benefits to an employee who was disabled by a workplace injury. There are five types of disabilities that result in compensation; however, the two at issue in the Hughes-Turner case are temporary total disability benefits and “non-scheduled” permanent partial disability.
Under D.C. Code § 32-1505(b), for any one injury that causes disablement, payment as a result of the temporary or permanent disablement shall not continue for more than 500 weeks. However, in the Hughes-Turner matter, the injured worker, Ms. Hughes-Turner, argued that the statute should be interpreted as an injured worker should be able to receive 500 weeks of temporary total disability benefits and another 500 weeks of “non-scheduled” permanent partial disability benefits, while the employer argued that the 500-week cap is an aggregate of the temporary total disability benefits and “non-scheduled” benefits.
The District of Columbia has historically opined that the Compensation Review Board should provide a liberal interpretation of the Workers’ Compensation Act. However, liberal interpretation does not relieve the Compensation Review Board of following the plain language and meaning of the law. Accordingly, the Compensation Review Board opined that the plain language and meaning of D.C. Code § 32-1505(b) is there was intended to be an aggregate 500-week cap of benefits paid between both temporary total disability benefits and “non-scheduled” permanent partial disability benefits.
Written by associate Marleigh Severe.