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Vera Martin v. American Colloid Company

September 14, 2011

VERA MARTIN,
APPELLANT,
v.
AMERICAN COLLOID COMPANY AND AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY,
APPELLEES.



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT HUGHES COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA HONORABLE MARK BARNETT Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Severson, Justice

#25739-a-GAS

ARGUED APRIL 27, 2011

[¶1.] Vera Martin lives in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, but worked at an American Colloid Company plant in Colony, Wyoming. After suffering a work-related injury at the Colony plant, Martin received Wyoming workers' compensation benefits. She then filed a claim for South Dakota workers' compensation benefits. The South Dakota Department of Labor dismissed her claim for lack of jurisdiction, and the circuit court affirmed. We affirm.

Background

[¶2.] American Colloid is a Delaware corporation that conducts business in several states including Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, North Dakota, Alabama, and Nevada. American Colloid's corporate headquarters is located in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. Primary management functions, including human resources, payroll, manufacturing, marketing, and information technology, are based in Illinois.

[¶3.] American Colloid operates a large manufacturing plant in Colony, Wyoming, for the production of bentonite and lignite products. The Colony plant operates with separate plant management on site. Plant management in Wyoming handles customer service, accounts payable, orders, and receiving. The plant also has a separate cost center at the Wyoming plant, which tracks the plant's revenue, expenses, and profit. Plant management in Wyoming interviews, hires, and fires employees. Although the corporate headquarters in Illinois issues paychecks to employees, plant management in Wyoming determines wages and verifies hours worked. American Colloid also operates a business office in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, which provides limited administrative assistance to plant management in Wyoming.

[¶4.] Martin applied for employment with American Colloid in early 2006. She submitted her application to the Belle Fourche office. In February 2006, four plant supervisors interviewed Martin at the Colony plant. She was subsequently hired as a line worker at the Colony plant. Before her formal hiring, plant management required Martin to complete a physical and urinalysis at a Belle Fourche clinic in South Dakota. Martin exclusively worked at the Colony plant in Wyoming until she was terminated in February 2008.

[¶5.] Martin sustained a work-related injury at the Colony plant in September 2006. The plant reported her injury to the Wyoming Workers' Safety & Compensation Division (WWSCD). Shortly after her injury, Martin signed a Wyoming Report of Injury and received a pamphlet that explained her Wyoming workers' compensation benefits. In an attempt to accommodate her light-duty restrictions, plant management allowed Martin to work in the lab at the plant. But plant management eventually terminated Martin because they could not provide her a permanent light-duty position in either Colony or Belle Fourche.

[¶6.] American Colloid paid workers' compensation premiums in Wyoming for Martin. Wyoming has a state-funded workers' compensation system, and each quarter the employer must provide the WWSCD a list of employees and wages paid to those employees. The list that American Colloid provided to the WWSCD included Martin's name and gross earnings. Martin received Wyoming workers' compensation benefits totaling approximately $38,000. She later received a five-percent permanent partial impairment rating.

[¶7.] In February 2008, Martin filed a petition for hearing with the South Dakota Department of Labor. She alleged that her present physical condition prevented her return to her former employment and that she was entitled to oddlot disability benefits. American Colloid moved to dismiss her claim for lack of jurisdiction. Martin resisted the motion, arguing that the Department had jurisdiction because she resides in South Dakota. In January 2010, the Department dismissed Martin's claim for South Dakota workers' compensation benefits for lack of jurisdiction. Martin appealed to circuit court, which affirmed the Department's decision. Martin appeals.

Standard of Review

[¶8.] SDCL 1-26-37 establishes the standard of review for administrative appeals. Under the statute, "the applicable standard of review 'will vary depending on whether the issue is one of fact or one of law.'" Darling v. W. River Masonry, Inc. , 2010 S.D. 4, ¶ 10, 777 N.W.2d 363, 366 (quoting Orth v. Stoebner & Permann Constr., Inc. , 2006 S.D. 99, ¶ 27, 724 N.W.2d 586, 592). "The actions of the agency are judged by the clearly erroneous standard when the issue is a question of fact." Id. (citing Orth , 2006 S.D. ¶ 27, 724 N.W.2d at 592). Because an issue regarding jurisdiction is a question of law, we review the Department's decision to dismiss Martin's claim for South Dakota workers' compensation ...


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