Elam & Burke Prevails Before Idaho Supreme Court

In a victory for Idaho employers and surety companies, Elam & Burke prevailed in its appeal from a decision of the Industrial Commission in Izaguirre v. R&L Carriers Shared Services, LLC. The Court held that where a worker is injured by and obtains a settlement from a third party, the innocent employer’s right of subrogation extends to the entire amount of the third-party settlement, apart from attorney fees attributable to obtaining the settlement. Claimant, supported by an amicus brief from the Idaho Association of Trial Lawyers, argued on appeal that the statute only permits employers to recover for “compensation” they have paid. The term “compensation” is ambiguous: since it does not include items of general damages, such as pain and suffering, the employer’s right of subrogation should not extend to settlement proceeds attributable to such damages. The Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the Commission’s holding on the grounds that the statute does not recognize any basis for apportioning the settlement proceeds as Claimant argued. Thus, in an important victory for Idaho employers and their sureties, the employer is entitled to recover its full subrogation interest from the entire amount of the third-party settlement, less attorney fees.