On August 21, 2012, the NC Court of Appeals filed a new decision on attorneys’ fees as a sanction in workers’ compensation cases. In Ensley v. FMC Corporation and Broadspire (servicing agent), COA12-255, the Court held that the Industrial Commission had correctly assessed attorneys’ fees against FMC and Broadspire as a penalty for unreasonably defending this asbestosis case.
The injured worker’s doctors had all testified that he was disabled due to his compensable lung disease. The Defendants had produced no evidence to the contrary to dispute this testimony, but denied and defended the claim anyway. The Court of Appeals held that “there was no genuine basis for the Defendant’s denial or defense of Paintiff’s claim.” As a result, the Court upheld the Commission’s award of an extra $12,000 in attorneys’ fees for the worker’s lawyer.
The Court held that attorney fees may be awarded against an Employer and/or its insurance carrier or servicing agent when the Commission finds as a fact that those parties “brought, prosecuted, or defended [the hearing] without reasonable ground.” This finding of fact must be supported by competent evidence of the unreasonableness.
Here is a link to the decision: