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SCWCC Addresses Issues Raised by Rhame v. Charleston County School District

J. Steven Rodenberg

The Charleston County School District employed Ricky Rhame as a heating and air conditioning technician from 1987 to 2009. His job frequently required him to lift heating and air conditioning equipment. On September 29, 2009, Rhame filed a Form 50 alleging that on May 4, 2009, he sustained a back injury from repetitively lifting heavy air conditioning units.

The Single Commissioner found the claim compensable. The Charleston County School District sought review and the matter was heard by the Appellate Panel. The Appellate Panel reversed, denying the claim. Rhame filed a Motion for Rehearing before the Appellate Panel. He did not file his Notice of Appeal of the Appellate Panel’s Order until after the Appellate Panel denied his Motion for Rehearing. The Notice of Appeal was filed more than 30 days after the Appellate Panel’s initial Order.

The Court of Appeals dismissed Rhame’s appeal because the Notice of Appeal was not filed within 30 days from the date of the initial Appellate Panel Order. The Court of Appeals held that Motions for Rehearing are not permitted before the Commission on review of a Single Commissioner’s decision. After its review, the South Carolina Supreme Court held Rhame’s Motion for Rehearing to the Appellate Panel was proper and stayed the time for serving the Notice of Appeal for 30 days from receipt of the Appellate Panel decision denying the Motion for Rehearing.

In response to the Supreme Court’s opinion in Rhame, the Commission implemented changes to its Regulations effective February 23, 2018.

Regulation 67-201 was amended to clarify that Article 2 of the Regulations applies to all levels of proceedings before the Commission. Reg. 67-201(C) now reads “unless the context otherwise requires, the Regulations in this Article shall be construed to apply to all levels of proceedings before the Workers’ Compensation Commission.”

Regulation 67-215 was amended to clarify that the Commission will not consider Motions addressing the merits, including Motions for Reconsideration of substantive issues, at any level of proceedings before the Commission. Reg. 67-215 now includes the following language: “The Single Commissioner or Full Commission may entertain motions to reconsider an order, opinion, or award if the purpose of the motion is not an attempt to reargue the merits of the dispute. Any motion for reconsideration must be made within five (5) days of the date that the order, opinion, or award is served, and shall not be made if any party already has filed an appeal of the order, opinion, or award. If a motion for reconsideration is properly filed consistent with the provisions of this subsection, the order, opinion, or award under reconsideration is not considered final until the motion for reconsideration has been disposed of by the Single Commissioner or Full Commission.”

Regulation 67-712 was amended to clarify that a party aggrieved by a final decision on the merits of the Commission must appeal in accordance with S.C. Code Ann. Section 42-17-60 instead of filing a motion for reconsideration. Regulation 67-712 now requires the appellant to notify the Judicial Department of any and all subsequent appeals. Additionally, the prevailing party must provide the Judicial Department with a copy of orders issued by the courts on appeal. The prevailing party must also notify the Commission in writing when a final order issued by the courts on appeal remits jurisdiction to the Commission.

Additionally, the procedure by which an informal conference is requested has been changed by amendments to Regulations 67-413 and 67-802. Line 6 on the old version of the Form 18 reading “informal conference is requested” and been eliminated from the Form 18. Regulation 67-804(C)(1) now states: “a party requesting an informal conference shall (a) write the Commission’s Judicial Department requesting that an informal conference be set, and (b) upload an updated Form 18 or the EDI equivalent SubAnnual (SA) Periodic Report showing the status of payment of temporary compensation, if any, and medical expenses.