Bell v. Maricopa County – 1/30/2014

February 28, 2014

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One Holds That the Seven-Day Waiting Period Required by A.R.S. § 23-1062(B) Must Be Satisfied by Temporary Total Disability on Consecutive Working Days.

On February 24, 2010, Linda Bell was injured at work when a maintenance employee working on a light fixture received an electric shock and fell on her.  On various occasions from February 25, 2010, through July 7, 2011, Bell missed work to attend medical appointments and receive treatment for her injuries.  In 2012, Bell requested temporary partial disability benefits as repayment for the sick leave and vacation time she lost due to the medical treatment.  After an evidentiary hearing, the administrative law judge issued a decision denying Bell’s request.  Bell appealed the decision.

The Arizona Court of Appeals upheld the decision, concluding that A.R.S. § 23-1062(B) only authorizes compensation for temporary total disability on consecutive working days.  In Arizona, injured employees are entitled to “receive medical, surgical and hospital benefits . . . reasonably required at the time of [their] injury, and during the period of disability.”  A.R.S. § 23-1062(A).  A.R.S. § 23-1062(B) requires the compensation to “be paid at least one each two weeks during the period of temporary total disability and at least monthly thereafter.”  Compensation is not paid, however, “for the first seven days after the injury” unless “the disability continues for one week beyond such seven days”, in which case “compensation shall be computed from the date of the injury.”  Id.  Because the language imposing the requisite waiting period follows closely after the reference to “temporary total disability,” the Court concluded that a plain and natural reading of the statute requires the waiting period to be satisfied by a workweek of temporary total disability rather than temporary partial disability.  The Court also concluded that the text of the statute reveals that the disability must occur on consecutive workdays.   In this case, Bell testified that she did not recall whether she ever missed a full week of work.  Consequently, the Court held that the evidence supported the finding that Bell did not meet the threshold waiting period of temporary total disability.

Judge Gemmill authored the opinion; Judges Thompson and Kessler concurred.