Mar. 16 2020

All Deputy Commissioner Hearings Scheduled to be Heard in April or May of 2020 will be Continued to be Reset on a Future Docket

April 3, 2020: COVID-19 Response: Revised NCIC Deputy Commissioner Hearing Policy
In order to protect public health and safety, and in light of Chief Justice Beasley’s April 2, 2020 Order requiring local courts to schedule or reschedule most cases in district and superior court for a date no sooner than June 1, 2020, the Industrial Commission has instituted the following revised policy for Deputy Commissioner hearings, effective immediately and continuing until further notice.

Deputy Commissioner Hearings (Non-Medical Motion Hearings)
All Deputy Commissioner hearings scheduled to be heard in April or May of 2020 will be continued to be reset on a future docket, with the exception of hearings on medical motions arising under G.S. §97-25(f) or unless the parties are notified otherwise.

Deputy Commissioner Hearings on Medical Motions
Deputy Commissioner hearings on medical motions arising under G.S. §97-25(f), which are statutorily required to be held within 30 days of the filing of the motion or appeal, will not be continued. Through the end of May 2020, these hearings will be conducted with all parties appearing remotely. The Deputy Commissioner before whom the hearing is scheduled may excuse the parties from appearing at the G.S. §97-25(f) hearing if the parties and the Deputy Commissioner agree that no lay witnesses are needed to decide the case, based on the parties’ stipulated facts and exhibits. If the parties are excused from appearing at the hearing because no lay witnesses are needed, the parties should proceed as usual with obtaining any expert medical testimony needed to close the record.

COVID-19 Policy Update Regarding Electronic Signatures
In response to feedback from stakeholders, the Industrial Commission is now accepting all agreements that have been signed by one or more parties via DocuSign or a similar vendor that provides a graphic image of a signature placed on a document using secure software that verifies the identity of the user.

March 26, 2020: Industrial Commission Accepting Agreements Signed Via DocuSign
The Industrial Commission has received inquiries about allowing employees to sign agreements via DocuSign in order to encourage social distancing. Because DocuSign is widely used in the North Carolina legal community for agreements and other transactions, the Industrial Commission is accepting all agreements that have been signed by one or more parties via DocuSign. This includes, but is not limited to, Compromise Settlement Agreements, Form 26As and other Form agreements, and Consent Agreements. An employee himself or herself must sign via DocuSign; an employee’s attorney cannot sign via DocuSign on behalf of an employee.

March 26, 2020: COVID-19 Response: Industrial Commission Filing Deadline Policy
The Industrial Commission has received some inquiries from attorneys regarding its current filing deadline policy. At this time, the Commission has not granted an automatic, blanket extension of filing deadlines for the following reasons:

  1. Parties may utilize the Industrial Commission’s Electronic Document Filing Portal (“EDFP”) to electronically file forms, responses, briefs, contentions, proposed opinions and awards/decisions and orders, proposed orders, and all other filings or documents to which a filing deadline applies. (Any attorney who is not registered to utilize EDFP but wishes to do so can find EDFP Registration Instructions by clicking here);
  2. The Industrial Commission continues to allow pro se plaintiffs and pro se non-insured employers to file all documents by facsimile, U.S. Mail, private courier service, or hand delivery; and
  3. Any party wishing to obtain an extension of a filing deadline for a reason related to COVID-19, or otherwise for good cause, may file a motion for an extension of time as allowed by applicable rules and statutes.

March 20, 2020: COVID-19 Response: Telehealth Coverage and Billing
The Industrial Commission has received several inquiries from health care providers regarding telehealth visits in lieu of in-person office visits, in light of health and safety concerns about COVID-19 transmission raised by nurse case managers, injured employees, and the health care providers. Please click here for answers to the most frequently asked questions about the telehealth visits.

March 19, 2020: COVID-19 Response: Medical Motion Hearings To Be Conducted Remotely
Effective March 23, 2020, and continuing through the end of April 2020, the Commission’s COVID-19 procedure for medical motion hearings arising under G.S. §97-25(f) is amended as follows:

All medical motion hearings before Deputy Commissioners shall be conducted with the parties appearing remotely. The presiding Deputy Commissioner will provide the parties a toll-free number and access code to dial into the remote hearing. Consistent with existing procedure, hearing testimony will be recorded by a court reporter.

Upon approval by the Deputy Commissioner, the parties will not be required to appear remotely if they stipulate that no lay witness testimony is necessary or agree to take any needed lay witness testimony by deposition. In such cases, the parties shall submit a Pre-Trial Agreement and a set of stipulated exhibits, and then proceed to take medical depositions.

Parties are strongly encouraged to explore options to avoid the necessity of appearing remotely by stipulating to facts in the Pre-Trial Agreement and/or by agreeing to take any needed lay witness testimony by deposition.

How to Contact the Claims Section and Information Specialists During COVID-19 State of Emergency

Claims Section:
If you need to reach a member of the Claims Section, please email your inquiry to claimsadm@ic.nc.gov.  If you do not have access to email, please call 919-716-1734 and leave a detailed message.

Information Specialists:
If you need to reach an Information Specialist, please email your inquiry to infospec@ic.nc.gov.  If you do not have access to email, please call 919-716-1727 and leave a detailed message.

March 18, 2020: COVID-19 Mediation Policy Revision: Parties Must Appear Remotely for Mediations Conducted Prior to April 13, 2020
Consistent with Chief Justice Beasley’s emergency directive and in light of new guidance from the NC Dispute Resolution Commission, all mediations held in Industrial Commission cases prior to April 13, 2020 shall be conducted with all parties appearing remotely or, in the alternative, be rescheduled for a date on or after April 13, 2020.

March 18, 2020: How to Contact the Claims Section and Information Specialists During COVID-19 State of Emergency

Claims Section:
If you need to reach a member of the Claims Section, please email your inquiry to claimsadm@ic.nc.gov.  If you do not have access to email, please call 919-716-1734 and leave a detailed message.

Information Specialists:
If you need to reach an Information Specialist, please email your inquiry to infospec@ic.nc.gov.  If you do not have access to email, please call 919-716-1727 and leave a detailed message.

March 17, 2020: Email From Tara L. Kozlowski, Executive Director; Dispute Resolution Commission

To: All Certified MSC, FFS, and Clerk Mediators
Re: COVID – 19 and The Use of Electronic Communication Methods

 Due to recent developments with COVID-19, the Governor issued an Executive Order on March 14, 2020, prohibiting mass gatherings and closing all public school to limit the spread of COVID-19.  Based on this Order, and other recent developments, the Chief Justice has directed the Administrative Office of the Courts to clarify that DRC court ordered mediations fall within the definition of a proceeding within the Chief’s Order issued March 13, 2020.

Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, Chief Beasley entered an Order containing an emergency directive that all superior court and district court proceedings be scheduled or rescheduled, for a date no sooner than April 12, 2020, unless the proceeding will be conducted remotely.  Additional exceptions to this directive are listed within the Order of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

Therefore, all mediations under a DRC program shall be conducted remotely, if all parties agree.  Rule 4 of the MSC and FFS Rules provide a mediation may be conducted via electronic means with the agreement of all parties.  If all parties fail to provide their consent to conduct mediation via electronic means, the matter shall be rescheduled after April 12, 2020.   DRC staff strongly encourages all court ordered mediations be held via electronic means during this period.

To assist mediators with this transition, Frank Laney, DRC Ex-Officio Member, DRC Certified Mediator, and Circuit Mediator for the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, provided an article on Mediating by Telephone, for your reference.  Ketan Soni, Attorney, DRC Certified Mediator and Trainer, also provided a presentation on Using Zoom, a quick introduction on how to use Zoom to conduct mediations.  Please note, the DRC does not endorse Zoom or its products.

Please follow state and local news to determine your personal level of risk. Be smart, stay safe.

Please do not hesitate to contact DRC staff with any questions or concerns.

March 16, 2020: COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Response: Industrial Commission Mediation Policy
Effective immediately and continuing until further notice, the Industrial Commission will liberally grant the following types of motions:

  1. Motions for an extension of time to complete a mediation to allow all mediation participants to safely appear in person at the mediation; and
  2. Motions to allow one or more parties to participate in a mediation via telephone or video conference.

IC Staff Working Remotely; Email Communication Encouraged
In light of Governor Cooper’s March 10, 2020 State of Emergency declaration regarding COVID-19 and consistent with guidance issued by the NC Department of Human Resources, the Industrial Commission is encouraging its staff to work remotely to the greatest extent possible. The Commission remains open for business but encourages you to contact Commission staff by email instead of by phone. Commission employees working remotely have easy and quick access to their email inbox on their laptops and other devices. By contrast, they do not have real time access to office phone calls when working remotely, and their voicemail messages are not forwarded to their personal phones. Email addresses can be found by going under the “Sections” tab on the Commission’s Home Page and clicking on the appropriate section of the Commission. The Commission is committed to continuing to serve you during this challenging time and appreciates your understanding and assistance.

March 13, 2020: COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Response: Industrial Commission Hearing Policies
In order to protect public health and safety, and in light of Chief Justice Beasley’s March 13, 2020 Order requiring local courts to postpone most cases in district and superior court for at least 30 days, the Industrial Commission has instituted the following policies for hearings, effective immediately and continuing until further notice. These policies apply to all hearings that are scheduled to take place on or after Monday, March 16, 2020.

Deputy Commissioner Hearings
With the exception of hearings on medical motions arising under G.S. §97-25(f), all Deputy Commissioner hearings scheduled to be heard in March or April of 2020 will be continued to be reset on the next available docket, unless the parties are notified otherwise. Deputy Commissioner hearings on medical motions arising under G.S. §97-25(f), which are statutorily required to be held within 30 days of the filing of the motion or appeal, will not be continued. The Deputy Commissioner before whom the hearing is scheduled may, however, excuse the parties from appearing at the G.S. §97-25(f) hearing if the parties and the Deputy Commissioner agree that no lay witnesses are needed to decide the case, based on the parties’ stipulated facts and exhibits. If the parties are excused from appearing at the hearing because no lay witnesses are needed, the parties should proceed as usual with obtaining any expert medical testimony needed to close the record.

Full Commission Hearings
All Full Commission oral arguments will be conducted by conference call. The Full Commission panel chair will provide the parties with a toll-free number and access code to dial into the conference call. Consistent with existing procedure, all oral arguments will continue to be recorded by a court reporter, with the exception of medical motion oral arguments made pursuant to 11 NCAC 23A .0609A(h).

Executive Secretary Hearings
Consistent with existing procedure, all informal telephonic hearings conducted by the Executive Secretary’s Office will be by conference call.

Orders may be found here.

Questions? Contact one of MGC’s workers’ compensation attorneys. 

This legal update is published as a service to our clients and friends. It is intended to provide general information and does not constitute legal advice regarding any specific situation. Past success does not indicate likelihood of success in any future legal representation.