Race Fork Coal Co. v. Turner

In Race Fork Coal Co. v. Turner, 237 Va. 639, 644, 379 S.E.2d 341, 343-44 (1989), the commission held the statutory employer, Race Fork Coal Company, responsible for a previous award of the commission to an injured worker, despite an absence of notice to Race Fork of either the accident or compensability hearing, a decision subsequently affirmed by this Court. See 237 Va. at 642, 379 S.E.2d at 342-43. In reversing on appeal, the Supreme Court expressly declined to dismiss the claim against Race Fork, recognizing that an employee "may not know the relationship between his employer and some third party, who may be a statutory employer at the time of . . . injury, and . . . may not reasonably discover that relationship within a period of 30 days thereafter." Id. at 644, 379 S.E.2d at 343-44. However, the Court concluded that due process entitled Race Fork to a "de novo hearing" to adjudicate the respective "rights to benefits under the Act," provided that the claimant tendered to the commission a "reasonable excuse for not giving timely notice" of the accident and Race Fork had not been prejudiced by a default in notice. Id. at 644, 379 S.E.2d at 344. Thus, the Court sought to at once preserve the interest of the injured worker and safeguard the right of the statutory employer, without proper notice of the accident, to a hearing on the claim.