Parties may petition the Appellate Panel of the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission to rehear its decisions. The case is Rhame v. Charleston County School Dist., 412 S.C. 273, 772 S.E.2d 159 (2015).
In Rhame, the single commissioner found that Mr. Rhame’s claim was compensable. On further review, the Commission’s Appellate Panel reversed and then denied Rhame’s petition for rehearing.
Rhame appealed to the SC Court of Appeals. The appeal to the Court of Appeals was timely if the 30-day clock was not triggered until the order denying the petition for rehearing. It was untimely if the 30-day clock was triggered by the earlier order reversing the single commissioner. The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal as untimely, reasoning that petitions for rehearing are not permitted when the Commission reviews a single commissioner’s order.
The Supreme Court reversed. It ruled that the SC Administrative Procedures Act applied and granted Rhame the right to seek rehearing. If rehearing is sought, the time to further appeal is not triggered until the decision on rehearing. S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-380(1).
The Court added that its conclusion is consistent with Workers’ Comp regulation 67-712 which expressly incorporates the normal appellate rule that tolls the time to appeal while a timely petition for rehearing is pending.
The Court lastly distinguished a regulation that forbids motions involving the merits. In its view, regulation 67-215 only prohibits motions for the single commissioner to rehear the single commissioner’s orders. it does not apply to the Commission’s Appellate Panel.
Rhame is part of a line of decisions that began with the Lark decision in 1981. Lark v. Bi-Lo, Inc., 276 S.C. 130, 276 S.E.2d 304 (1981). In that case, the Court began applying the Administrative Procedures Act to workers’ comp appeals even though there is an agency-specific statute. Compare S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-380 (APA provision on appeals) with S.C. Code Ann. § 42-17-60 (workers’ comp provision on appeals).
Some of these cases are discussed in Wofford v City of Spartanburg, 410 S.C. 102, 763 S.E.2d 53 (Ct.App. 2014).