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DeMaranville v. Employers Insurance Co. of Nevada

Supreme Court of Nevada

September 5, 2019

LAURA DEMARANVILLE, SURVIVING SPOUSE OF DANIEL DEMARANVILLE (DECEASED), Appellant/Cross-Respondent,
v.
EMPLOYERS INSURANCE COMPANY OF NEVADA; AND CANNON COCHRAN MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC., Respondents, and CITY OF RENO, Respondent/Cross-Appellant.

          Appeal and cross-appeal from a district court order granting in part and denying in part a petition for judicial review in a workers' compensation matter. First Judicial District Court, Carson City; James E. Wilson, Judge.

          Evan B. Beavers, Nevada Attorney for Injured Workers, Samantha Peiffer, Deputy Nevada Attorney for Injured Workers, Carson City, for Appellant/Cross-Respondent.

          Sertic Law Ltd. and Mark S. Sertic, Reno, for Respondent Employers Insurance Company of Nevada.

          McDonald Carano LLP and Timothy E. Rowe and Chelsea Latino, Reno, for Respondent Cannon Cochran Management Services, Inc., and Respondent/Cross-Appellant City of Reno.

          BEFORE HARDESTY, STIGLICH and SILVER, JJ.

          OPINION

          STIGLICH, J.

         This appeal and cross-appeal concern a claim for workers' compensation death benefits. Laura DeMaranville sought benefits after her husband Daniel DeMaranville died as a result of heart disease. After Daniel's former employer, the City of Reno, and its former insurer, Employers Insurance Company of Nevada (EICON), denied benefits, an appeals officer reversed, finding that Daniel's death was caused by compensable occupational heart disease, that the City of Reno was liable as the self insurer, and that the amount of the claim was based on Daniel's income from his private employer at the time of death. The district court affirmed the appeals officer's decisions as to compensability and liability, and reversed as to the award amount, concluding that the award should be based on Daniel's wages from the City on the date of disablement (death), which were zero.

         Because EICON insured the City when Daniel was last exposed to the risk that was causally connected to his occupational disease, EICON was liable under the last injurious exposure rule. We therefore reverse the liability determination, as the last injurious exposure rule determines the liable insurer for an occupational disease claim that arose out of and in the course of employment, even if the employee no longer works for that employer. We also reverse the award amount determination because for a death benefit claim for an occupational disease arising out of and in the course of employment under the statutory scheme as it applied to Daniel's claim, the monthly compensation amount should be based on the deceased employee's earnings in the employment causally connected to the occupational disease underpinning the claim. Thus, death benefits should have been based on Daniel's wages at the time he last worked for the City.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Daniel worked for the City as a police officer from 1969 to 1990. He retired from that position and began working as a security officer for a private company. EICON insured the City's workers' compensation and occupational disease claims through 2002, when the City began to self-insure. On August 5, 2012, Daniel died from cardiac arrest shortly after a laparoscopic cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal surgery).

         Laura filed a claim for compensation for occupational disease with the City. The City denied the claim, finding that the evidence did not show that heart disease caused Daniel's death. Laura appealed, and the parties agreed to forego a hearing before the hearing officer in favor of proceeding directly to an appeals officer. Cf. NRS 6I6C.3I5(7). After being informed that EICON was the appropriate insurer, Laura separately filed a claim with EICON, which also denied the claim on the basis that the evidence did not establish that Daniel died from heart disease. Laura appealed EICON'S determination to a hearing officer, who reversed EICON'S denial and held EICON liable. EICON appealed the hearing officer's decision. The City also appealed EICON'S claim denial.

         After consolidating the three appeals, the appeals officer considered several medical opinions and found that Daniel had heart disease that caused his death and that his heart disease was compensable as an occupational disease under NRS 617.457. The appeals officer concluded that the date of disablement was August 5, 2012-the date of Daniel's death-and that the City was liable for the claim because it was a self-insured employer on the date of disablement. Holding that the City was liable, the appeals officer reversed the hearing officer's decision that EICON was liable for the claim, reversed the City's determination letter denying the claim, and affirmed EICON'S determination letter denying the | claim.

         The City petitioned for judicial review of the appeals officer's decision. As that petition was pending and to comply with the appeals officer's decision, the City issued a determination that based the monthly amount for Daniel's death benefits on Daniel's wages in 1990 when he last worked for the City. Laura appealed this determination, seeking compensation based on the amount of Daniel's earnings from his private employer at the time of his death in 2012. A hearing officer affirmed the City's determination, and Laura appealed again. The appeals officer reversed the hearing officer's decision and concluded that the monthly benefit should be based on Daniel's wages as of the date of disablement. The City and EICON each petitioned for judicial review of the decision that the monthly benefit should be based on Daniel's 2012 wages from his private employer.

         After consolidating these petitions for judicial review, the district court entered an order granting the petitions in part and denying them in part. The district court affirmed the finding that Daniel died from heart disease, a compensable occupational disease; affirmed the conclusion that the City was the liable insurer based on the date of disablement, ruling that the last injurious exposure rule did not apply; and reversed the conclusion that the monthly benefit was based on Daniel's 2012 wages from his private employer, ruling that the monthly benefit was based on ...


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