October 9, 2018
Petition for Review of a Decision and Order of the
Compensation Review Board of the District of Columbia
Department of Employment Services (CRB-107-15)
Moore, pro se.
A. Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia,
Loren L. AliKhan, Acting Solicitor General at the time the
statement was filed, and Stacy L. Anderson, Senior Assistant
Attorney General, filed a statement in lieu of brief for
J. Emig, with whom Nathan J. Postillion was on the brief, for
Fisher and Easterly, Associate Judges, and Ruiz, Senior
FISHER, ASSOCIATE JUDGE.
Moore injured his back in a 2008 car crash while working for
Marshall Heights Community Development Organization, Inc.
("Marshall Heights"). An administrative law judge
("ALJ") dismissed Moore's claim for
workers' compensation benefits, and the Compensation
Review Board ("CRB") agreed. In an unpublished
memorandum opinion and judgment, this court affirmed the
CRB's rulings on the two issues that the board had
analyzed under D.C. Code § 32-1535 (2012 Repl.)
(entitled "Compensation for injuries where third persons
are liable"). See Moore v. District of Columbia
Dep't of Emp't Servs., No. 15-AA-1293, Mem. Op.
& J. at 2-3 (D.C. May 11, 2017). However, we remanded to
allow the CRB to address a third argument discussed by the
ALJ and preserved for review: whether, by receiving an
unapproved settlement from a third-party tortfeasor,
"Moore had lost his right to payment for medical
services in addition to any right to disability
payments." Id. at 3-4. The CRB answered that he
had, and we affirm.
March 2010 the Office of Workers' Compensation authorized
Moore to visit a neurosurgeon and receive medical
reimbursements related to the injuries he sustained in the
car accident. Marshall Heights made periodic payments to
Moore for lost wages and medical benefits that totaled $15,
325.73. (The organization had terminated Moore in March 2009
because it no longer had grant funding for his position.)
Moore also sued the parties allegedly responsible for the
accident and procured a $15, 000 settlement, unbeknownst to
Marshall Heights. In June 2012 Moore sought further payments
through the Office of Workers' Compensation. After
Marshall Heights discovered that Moore had settled with third
parties, it moved to dismiss the claim.
Moore acknowledges that Marshall Heights did not approve his
third-party compromise, he contends that the word
"compensation" does not encompass medical benefits.
The CRB - a panel within the Department of Employment
Services - disagreed in a decision issued on June 16, 2017.
Adopting statutory interpretation conducted by the ALJ, and
focusing especially on the provisions of § 32-1535(e),
the board concluded that the result advocated by Moore
"is illogical and the statute simply cannot be read this
way." Therefore, it said, Moore's unauthorized
settlement absolved Marshall Heights from liability for all
further payments. Moore again petitioned for
court reviews an agency's interpretation of a statute
that it administers using the two-part test of Chevron
U.S.A. Inc. v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 467 U.S.
837 (1984). See, e.g., Colbert v. District of
Columbia Dep't of Emp't Servs., 933 A.2d 817,
819 (D.C. 2007). "If the intent of [the legislature] is
clear, that is the end of the matter; for the court, as well
as the agency, must give effect to the unambiguously
expressed intent of [the legislature]." Timus v.
District of Columbia Dep't of Human Rights, 633 A.2d
751, 758 (D.C. 1993) (en banc) (quoting Chevron, 467
U.S. at 842-43). "If the statute is ambiguous, however,
we must defer to the agency's interpretation of the
statutory language so long as it is reasonable."
Pannell-Pringle v. District of Columbia Dep't of
Emp't Servs., 806 A.2d 209, 211 (D.C. 2002) (citing
Chevron, 467 U.S. at 842-43). The court looks not
only to the specific language in question but also to the
statute as a whole. See id. at 214.
employee is injured by a third party, he or she "need
not elect" at the outset between pursuing civil damages
from the tortfeasor and receiving compensation under the
statute. See D.C. Code § 32-1535(a). However,
if the injured person accepts workers' compensation, he
must file any action against the third person within six
months after the award. See id. § 32-1535(b).
If the worker does not timely sue the third person, his
acceptance of "an award in a compensation order"
operates "as an assignment to the employer of all [his]
rights . ...