New Appellate Division decision clarifies burden of proof to toll the statute of limitations

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Recently, the Appellate Division clarified the employee’s burden of proof of contemporaneous notice required to toll (or pause) the statute of limitations in Maine workers’ compensation cases.  Contemporaneous notice is a doctrine which tolls the statute of limitations for an earlier injury if the employee can show the employer/ insurer made payments on a later injury with contemporaneous knowledge those payments were at least partly necessitated by the earlier injury.

In Ronald Flanagin v. State of Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife the Appellate Division clarified that there is a “a relatively low threshold to meet the employee’s burden to establish the causative relationship” between the earlier and later injury: The employee must show (1) that the earlier injury “contributed in some part” to the later incapacity or need for treatment, or (2) that treatment after the later injury was “in part necessitated by” the earlier injury.  To show the employer/insurer had contemporaneous knowledge the two injuries were related, the employee can (1) provide medical records available to the employer at the time of the payments suggesting the later injury is connected with the first, or (2) simply show he or she had asserted a belief at the time of the payments that the older injury is at least partly responsible for the later incapacity or treatment.

This is the first time the new Appellate Division has addressed the employee’s burden of proof of contemporaneous notice to toll the statute of limitations.  The Appellate Division characterizes the employee’s burden of proof on the sufficiency of notice as a “relatively low one,” and a mere “connection standard.”  It also clarifies that a mere showing the employee expressed a belief at the time of the payments that the later injury is related to the first is sufficient to show the employer had contemporaneous knowledge of their relatedness, and will toll the statute of limitations.

 

 

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