April 18, 2019
from The Workers' Compensation Commission
OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS
K. Holmes, of The Steinberg Law Firm, LLP, of Charleston, and
E. Hood Temple, of Hatfield Temple, LLP, of Florence, both
Gabriel Coggiola and Sarah C. Sutusky, of Willson Jones
Carter & Baxley, P.A., of Columbia, for Respondents.
granted Scott Ledford's petition for a writ of certiorari
to review the Court of Appeals' decision in Ledford
v. Department of Public Safety, Op. No. 2018-UP-280
(S.C. Ct. App. filed June 27, 2018). We reverse the decision
of the Court of Appeals, vacate the orders of Commissioner
Susan Barden and the Workers' Compensation Commission
Appellate Panel ("Appellate Panel"), and remand for
a new hearing before a single commissioner.
Ledford is a former lance corporal with the South Carolina
Highway Patrol. While employed as a highway patrolman,
Ledford was injured in two separate work-related accidents.
In July 2010, Ledford sustained injuries to his spine after
being tasered during a training exercise. Ledford settled the
2010 claim with Respondents. In March 2012, Ledford was
involved in a motorcycle accident while attempting to pursue
the second accident, Ledford filed two separate claims for
workers' compensation benefits. One claim alleged
injuries to his right leg and lower back stemming from the
2012 motorcycle accident. The other claim related to
Ledford's 2010 Taser accident and alleged a change of
condition for the worse. The claims were eventually
consolidated, and the parties appeared before Commissioner
Andrea Roche. Commissioner Roche declined to find Ledford
suffered a change of condition; however, she found Ledford
was entitled to medical benefits for injuries to his right
leg and aggravated pre-existing conditions in his neck and
lower back due to the motorcycle accident. Neither party
appealed Commissioner Roche's order.
January 2014, Respondents filed a Form 21 requesting to stop
payment of temporary compensation, a permanency
determination, and credit for payments made after Ledford
reached maximum medical improvement ("MMI").
Commissioner Barden held a hearing on Respondents' Form
21 in August 2014.
the hearing-but prior to the issuance of a final
order-Ledford filed a motion to recuse Commissioner Barden.
According to Ledford's motion, Commissioner Barden
requested a phone conference with the parties a month after
the hearing. During this conference, Commissioner Barden
allegedly threatened criminal proceedings against Ledford if
the case was not settled; indicated that she engaged in her
own investigation and made findings based on undisclosed
materials outside the record; suggested Ledford used
"creative accounting" in his tax
returns;and questioned Ledford's credibility
regarding his claims of neck pain. Ledford contended any one
of these grounds was sufficient to warrant recusal.
support of his motion to recuse, Ledford submitted an
affidavit from his accountant stating Ledford's tax
returns were prepared in accordance with Generally Accepted
Accounting Principles. Ledford also submitted an affidavit
and memorandum from his attorney, E. Hood Temple, who
participated in the call with Commissioner Barden and
prepared the memorandum immediately afterwards to document
what had transpired.
Temple's affidavit, he alleged Commissioner Barden stated
"while [Ledford] may be a former member of the South
Carolina Highway Patrol ACE Team, he was not a member of the
'Truth Team.'" Temple further claimed
Commissioner Barden indicated that she "did not believe
anything [Ledford] said except his name and age." Temple
also alleged Commissioner Barden stated that she realized the
State Accident Fund would likely make a minimal offer due to
the conference call, and she would have an ongoing duty to
report Ledford to the Attorney General for prosecution unless
Ledford accepted the Fund's offer. According to Temple,
the State Accident Fund made a minimal settlement offer
following the phone conference.
Barden denied the troubling statements in Temple's
affidavit. Commissioner Barden labeled the affidavit as
containing "false statement[s] of fact and a frivolous
allegation[, ]" and maintained that she "did not
manifest bias or prejudice against [Ledford], but simply
informed the parties of the inconsistencies" in his
testimony and of her duty to report any suspicions of ...