Buehler v. Honorable Robert Retzer ex rel. Industrial Commission of Arizona – 6/23/2011

June 27, 2011

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One Holds That A Claimant May Not Appeal to the Superior Court From a Procedural Ruling in a Workers’ Compensation Proceeding.

Claimant filed workers’ compensation claims stemming from injuries allegedly suffered in Yavapai County.  Citing budget constraints, the Administrative Law Judge assigned to the case notified the claimant that a hearing would be held in Phoenix.  Claimant then filed an action in the Superior Court alleging that the Administrative Law Judge’s procedural ruling on the place of the hearing violated Arizona statute and claimant’s constitutional rights to due process and equal protection. 

The Superior Court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim.  Claimant appealed.  The Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed. 

A workers’ compensation claimant may request a hearing pursuant to A.R.S. § 23-941(A).  Such hearings are held before an Administrative Law Judge, who then issues an award. 

Under A.R.S. § 23-946(A), a person dissatisfied with an order from the Industrial Commission may appeal the order by filing a complaint in the Superior Court.  Section 23-901(12) defines an order as:

any rule, direction, requirement, standard, determination,  or decision other than an award or a directive by the commission or an administrative law judge relative to any entitlement to compensation benefits, or to the amount thereof, and any procedural ruling relative to the processing or adjudicating of a compensation matter.

A procedural ruling setting the place for a hearing falls within the statutory exception and is therefore not an “order” for purposes of § 23-901(12).  A claimant wishing to contest such a procedural ruling may do so only by filing a petition for special action.  Because the Administrative Law Judge’s determination as to the place of the hearing was not an “order” under § 23-901(12), the Superior Court correctly dismissed the action for lack of jurisdiction.

Judge Johnsen wrote the opinion; Judges Kessler and Weisberg concurred