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You can search the entire site. or go to the recent opinions, or the chronological or subject indices. Muncipality of Anchorage v. Stenseth (11/25/2015) sp-7064

Muncipality of Anchorage v. Stenseth (11/25/2015) sp-7064

          Notice:   This opinion is subject to correction before publication in the P                    ACIFIC  REPORTER.  

          Readers are requested to bring errors to the attention of the Clerk of the Appellate Courts,  

                                                                                                                  

          303 K Street, Anchorage, Alaska 99501, phone (907) 264-0608, fax (907) 264-0878, email  

                                                                                                                    

          corrections@akcourts.us.  



                     THE  SUPREME  COURT  OF  THE  STATE  OF  ALASKA  



MUNICIPALITY  OF  ANCHORAGE, )  

                                                             )         Supreme  Court  No.  S-15546  

                       Appellant,                            )  

                                                             )         Alaska  Workers'  Compensation  

          v.                                                 )         Appeals  Commission  No.   13-008  

                                                             )  

              

LEE O. STENSETH,                                                                           

                                                             )         O P I N I O N  

                                                             )  

                                                                                                                 

                       Appellee.                             )         No. 7064 - November 25, 2015  

                                                              

_______________________________ )  



                                                                                                    

                    Appeal  from the  Alaska  Workers'  Compensation Appeals  

                                                                                         

                    Commission, Laurence Keyes, Commission Chair.  



                                                                                                            

                    Appearances:   Shelby L. Nuenke-Davison, Anchorage, for  

                                                                                                

                    Appellant.   Robert   A.   Rehbock,   Rehbock   &  Rehbock,  

                                             

                    Anchorage, for Appellee.  



                                                                                                           

                    Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and  

                                                

                    Bolger, Justices.  



                                         

                     STOWERS, Justice.  



I.        INTRODUCTION  



                                                                                                                             

                    The Alaska Workers' Compensation Board dismissed an employer's fraud  



                                                                                                                               

petition  after  deciding  that  the  parties  had  reached  an  enforceable  settlement.   The  



                                                                                                                               

employer appealed the dismissal, arguing that any settlement of its fraud petition was  



                                                                                                                       

void because the settlement did not meet the requirements set out in the Alaska Workers'  



                                                                                                               

Compensation Act and the Board's regulations.  The Alaska Workers' Compensation  



                                                                                                                                

Appeals Commission affirmed the Board's decision. The employer appeals, arguing that  


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the Commission's interpretation of the statute is incorrect and that the Commission                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     



incorrectly   interpreted   our   decisions   about   estoppel.     We   affirm the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Commission's  



decision.  



II.                           FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS                                             



                                                            Lee Stenseth was injured at work many years ago.                                                                                                                                                                                   He and his employer,   



the Municipality of Anchorage,                                                                                                             entered into acompromiseandrelease agreement (C&R)                                                                                                                                                                       



in August 1996 in which Stenseth waived all future benefits except medical benefits in                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   



exchange for $37,000. Stenseth retired from the Municipality in 1996, but he continued                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                



to   receive   medical   benefits   for   his   work-related   injury,   including   narcotic   pain  



medication.  



                                                            In late 2006 Stenseth was charged with multiple felonies related to selling                                                                                                                                                                                                                             



or delivering narcotics that he had acquired, some from forged prescriptions modeled on                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                



the prescriptions for his work-related injury.                                                                                                                                                              Stenseth pleaded guilty to a number of                                                                                                                                     



felonies and served time in jail; he was released in June 2010.                                                                                                                                                                                           

                                                            In April 2012 the Municipality filed a petition under AS 23.30.250(b)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1  



alleging that Stenseth had obtained workers' compensation benefits by making a false  

                                                          



 statement or misrepresentation for the purpose of obtaining benefits.  It asked for an  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      



order reimbursing it for "all benefits, costs and attorney's fees paid as a result of the  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   



misrepresentations."  Stenseth denied that he had made any misrepresentations for the  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   



purpose of obtaining benefits.  

                                                                                               



                              1                             AS 23.30.250(b) provides in part, "If the board, after a hearing, finds that                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         



a person has obtained . . . medical treatment                                                                                                                                                                          .  . . by knowingly making a false or                                                                                                                           

misleading statement or representation for the purpose of obtaining that benefit, the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

board shall order that person to make full reimbursement of the cost of all benefits                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

obtained."  



                                                                                                                                                                                           -2-                                                                                                                                                                              7064
  


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                    The  parties  agreed  to  mediate  their  dispute,  with  an  Alaska  Workers'  



                                                                                                                              

Compensation  Board  hearing  officer,  William  Soule,  acting  as  the  mediator.                                          The  



                                                                                                                           

mediation occurred in early November 2012.   The letter from hearing officer Soule  



                                                                                                                              

confirming the mediation asked that the parties "come with authority to settle, or a way  



                                                                                                                               

to obtain adequate authority, during normal[] Alaska business hours."  At the time the  



                                                                                                                              

Municipality  was  represented  by  attorney  Trena  Heikes;  Law  Henderson,   the  



                                                                                                                                 

Municipality's workers' compensation administrator, did not attend the mediation in  



person but participated by telephone.  Henderson later testified that Heikes called him  



                                                                                                                   

periodically throughout the day to discuss the negotiations. Both Heikes and Henderson  



                                                             

thought they had authority to settle the case.  



                                                                                                                             

                    The  parties  reached  some  type  of  agreement  at  the  mediation.                                    The  



                                                                                                                

following  week  Heikes  wrote  to  attorney  Robert  Rehbock,  who  was  representing  



                                                                                                                         

Stenseth,  to  "summarize  the  settlement  reached  at  mediation  last  Friday."                                      Heikes  



                                               

summarized the agreement as follows:  



                                                                                                         

                    MOA has agreed to accept either $30,000.00 cash to be paid  

                                                                                                          

                    within  90  days  from  today  or  a  Promissory  Note  for  

                                                                                                   

                    $40,000.00 secured by a Confession of Judgment Without  

                                                                                                   

                    Action and a Deed of Trust on the home . . . in Wasilla,  

                                                                                                             

                    Alaska in exchange for its waiver of over $125,000.00 it  

                                                                                                           

                    claims  is  due  under  AS  23.30.250(b).                       The  note  will  be  

                                                                                                            

                    payable  at  $500.00  per  month  and  will  accrue  interest  at  

                                                                                                 

                    3.5%. Mr. Stenseth is to commence these monthly payments  

                                                                                                             

                    immediately with the balance either in cash within 90 days or  

                                                                                                          

                    execute  the  Note,  Confession  of  Judgment  and  have  his  

                                                                   

                    daughter execute the Deed of Trust.  



                                                                    

Heikes then memorialized a post-mediation exchange:  



                                                                                                       

                    I have since discussed the matter with Mr. Henderson today  

                                                                                                             

                    and  spoken  with  you  regarding  that  discussion.                               As  I  

                                                                                                        

                    explained, Mr. Henderson prefers to either wait on the C&R  

                                                                                               

                    until  payment  has  been  made  OR  make  the  agreement  



                                                               -3-                                                         7064
  


----------------------- Page 4-----------------------

                                                                                                

                    voidable at MOA's option in the event of default . . . .  You  

                                                                                                            

                    claim this changes the terms of the settlement.  I am not so  

                                                                                                    

                    sure.  Rather, MOA believes this merely is a way of moving  

                                                                                                         

                    forward in the manner in which I initially expressed:  to wait  

                                                                               

                    to file the C&R until all payment was made.  



                                         

She gave a deadline for a response.  



                                                                                                                      

                    Rehbock responded, essentially rejecting theMunicipality's new proposal;  



                                                                                                                               

he wrote, "We were and remain prepared to [compromise] on the original terms."  He  



                                                                                                                               

also said that he had been "directed to make a one-time further offer directly to the  



                                                                                                                               

MOA, your principal[,] if you will allow your client to receive it."  His letter did not  



                                                                                                            

contain the "further offer," but a letter from Heikes dated December 5 said:  



                                                                                                         

                    This  will  confirm  MOA's  response  to  your  client's  new  

                                                                                                

                    settlement proposal . . . .   I have tendered Mr. Stenseth's  

                                                                                                    

                    proposal to my client and, as I explained, have been advised  

                                                                                                   

                    MOA wishes to maintain the previous settlement amounts  

                                                                                                        

                    verbally agreed to by the parties at the November 9, 2012  

                                                                                                   

                    mediation.   Thus, in exchange for $30,000.00 in certified  

                                                                                                         

                    monies        by     February         22,     2013       (90     days      from       the  

                                                                                                     

                    November  13,  2012  letter  of  confirmation),  MOA  would  

                                                                                                     

                    execute any and all documents necessary for its full release  

                                                                                                      

                    of Mr. Stenseth from any further  liability  to MOA under  

                           

                    AS 23.30.250.  



                                                                                                                               

                    Rehbock wrote and accepted the Municipality's offer on December 11,  



                                                                                                                           

saying:       "My  client  accepts  your  post  mediation  offer  to  pay  $30,000.00  by  latest  



                                                                                                                         

February 22, 2013 in exchange for a complete release of all rights and claims against  



                                                                                                               

Mr. Stenseth arising of or in connection with AS 23.30.250."  Rehbock also informed  



                                                                                                                    

Heikes that Stenseth had "arranged for the funds" and that the funds were in Rehbock's  



                                                               -4-                                                         7064
  


----------------------- Page 5-----------------------

possession. Rehbock suggested a "tender in exchange for releases to be simultaneously                                                                                                                    

filed with the Board, so to meet any requirement of AS 23.30.012."                                                                                                                            2  



                                      Heikes emailed Rehbock six days later, informing him of "an internal  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                             



glitch," a "need to get higher ups to sign off."  She then wrote, "Higher ups demand  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            



closure of narcotics.  Under [the] circumstances that shouldn't be a problem, . . . right?"  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            



Rehbock responded in less than an hour, "No it is not ok.  The offer was accepted."  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                     



Rehbock tendered the funds, in the form of two cashier's checks, to the Municipality on  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            



or about December 18, 2012; the tender was refused.  

                                                                                                                               



                                      The "glitch" to which Heikes referred was a misunderstanding about the  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          



limit of her and Henderson's settlement authority. Henderson later testified that the limit  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      



for  settlement  without  approval  was  $50,000,  but  evidently  neither  Heikes  nor  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       



Henderson understood the limit applied to forbearance.  They thought they could settle  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    



as long as the amount set out in the agreement was $50,000 or less.   Someone later  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      



corrected their misunderstanding.  

                                           



                                      Stenseth filed a petition with the Board on December 18, asking the Board  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  



to dismiss the Municipality's fraud petition because the Municipality had "breached [its]  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        



                   2                 AS 23.30.012(a) provides:                        



                                     At any time after death, or after 30 days subsequent to the                                                                                             

                                      date of the injury, the employer and the employee . . . have                                                                                         

                                     the right to reach an agreement in regard to a claim for injury                                                                                         

                                      or   death   under   this   chapter,  but   a   memorandum   of   the  

                                      agreement in a form prescribed by the director shall be filed                                                                                              

                                     with the division.                                  Otherwise the agreement is void for any                                                                   

                                     purpose.     Except   as   provided  in  (b)   of   this   section,   an  

                                      agreement filed with the division discharges the liability of                                                                                                     

                                     the   employer   for   the   compensation,  notwithstanding   the  

                                     provisions of AS 23.30.130, 23.30.160, and 23.30.245, and                                                                                                     

                                      is enforceable as a compensation order.                                                       



                                                                                                                      -5-                                                                                                            7064
  


----------------------- Page 6-----------------------

contract   of   settlement   terms   negotiated   by   the   parties   at   the   November   9,   2012  



mediation." Several draft settlements were exchanged subsequent to Stenseth's petition,                                                                             



accompanied   by   emails between                                       the attorneys.                   Stenseth   took   the position                             that the   



settlement  he   accepted   on   December   11   was   binding   on   the   parties   unless   they  



renegotiated. Thepartiesexchangedsomeproposalsandcounter-proposals                                                                                       about several  



issues, including a release of narcotic-related treatment in exchange for an agreement by                                                                                       



the Municipality to pay part of Stenseth's attorney's fees related to the dispute about the                                                                                   

                                               3    The Board held a hearing on Stenseth's petition in February  

settlement's existence.                                                                                                                                          

2013.4  



                            The Board limited the February hearing to consideration of Stenseth's  

                                                                                                                                                              



petition  to  dismiss  the  Municipality's  fraud  claim;  it  declined  to  consider  the  

                                                                                                                                                                            



Municipality's petition, madeorally at a prehearing conference, that the written evidence  

                                                                                                                                                                  



of settlement negotiations be excluded.  In her opening statement, Heikes said that both  

                                                                                                                                                                           



she and Henderson thought they had authority to settle for the agreed-upon amount, but  

                                                                                                                                                                              



they did not in fact have authority. The Municipality argued that the settlement was void  

                                                                                                                                                                            



because it had not been submitted to the Board as required by AS 23.30.012.   The  

                                                                                                                                                                           



hearing  officer  questioned  both  attorneys  about  the  applicability  of  section  .012.  

                                                                                                                                                       

                            Henderson and Stenseth were the only hearing witnesses.5                                                                         Henderson  

                                                                                                                                                            



agreed that he had authorized Heikes to write the letter memorializing the agreement  

                                                                                                                                                               



reached through mediation; he said he thought the letter "was an offer" and that he  

                                                                                                                                                                               



              3             The  parties  had  stipulated  that  Stenseth  would  pay  his  own  attorney's  fees.  



              4             A  second  mediation  was  attempted  in  January  2013.  



              5             Stenseth  intended  to  call  hearing  officer/mediator  Soule  as  a  witness.   The  



Municipality   objected,   and   the   Board   Chair   agreed   that   he   could   not   be   called   as   a  

witness.  



                                                                                       -6-                                                                                7064
  


----------------------- Page 7-----------------------

                                                              

intended to bind the Municipality when he authorized it.  Henderson also testified that  



                                                                                                                     

he authorized Heikes to write the letter in which the Municipality rejected Stenseth's  



                                                                                                                    

post-mediation offer and said it wanted to return to the original agreement.  Henderson  



                                                                                                                            

agreed that he was aware Heikes could bind the Municipality and that nothing in the  



                                                                                                                                

letter suggested she did not have that authority; he acknowledged that the letter did not  



                                                                                                                                

"discuss  authority."              The  parties  ultimately  agreed  that  the  tender  was  made  on  



                  

December 18.  



                                                                                                                                      

                    Henderson explained the basis of the misunderstanding about authority.  



                                                                                                                                 

The limit for settlement without approval from others was $50,000, but because he  



                                                                                                                            

generally negotiated payments to others rather than from  them, it did not occur to either  



                                                                                                                             

him or Heikes that the limit applied to the amount the Municipality would forbear. They  



                                                                                                                     

both thought they had authority to settle when they attended the November mediation  



                                                                                                                     

because they evidently thought they could settle as long as the amount in the agreement  



                                                                                                                          

was $50,000 or less, even if the Municipality was compromising a claim that it alleged  



                                                                                                                            

exceeded $100,000. In answer to a question from Heikes about whether there had "been  



                                                                                                                              

a  settlement  agreement  in  this  case,"  Henderson  answered,  "Not  that  I  know  of."  



                                                                                                                                 

                     Stenseth testified about his understanding of the negotiations as well as his  



                                                                                                                              

understanding  of  and  response  to  the  Municipality's  discovery  requests.                                         He  was  



                                                                                                                               

cross-examined about his criminal convictions; he testified that none of the charges was  



                                                                                                             

"directly related to workers' comp."  He agreed that he had not signed a C&R in 2013  



                                                                                                                               

as he had in 1996. Stenseth answered questions fromhis attorney about negotiations that  



                                                                                                                     

happened after the December 11, 2012 letter accepting the Municipality's settlement  



                                                                                                                                

terms; according to Stenseth, he was willing to agree to some additional conditions but  



       

not others.  



                                                                                                                                 

                    In closing Stenseth argued that settlement agreements are contracts, that he  



                                                                                                                                

and the Municipality had entered into a valid contract to settle his case, and that the  



                                                                -7-                                                         7064
  


----------------------- Page 8-----------------------

                                                                                                         

Board should enforce the settlement.  The Municipality argued that the settlement was  



                                                                                                                            

void because it did not comply with AS 23.30.012 and that section .012 must apply  



                                                                      

because the Board's jurisdiction is limited to "claims."  



                                                                                                                

                    Because  a  hearing  on  the  Municipality's  fraud  petition  was  already  



                                                                                                                          

scheduled for early March 2013, in late February the Board issued a "summary interim  



                                                                                                                                

order"  dismissing  the  Municipality's  petition.                            The  Board  decided  there  was  an  



                                                                                                                                 

enforceable contract.  It noted that after 2005 Board approval was not required for all  



                                                                                                                             

settlements and specifically was not required for settlements in which both parties were  



                                                                                                                       

represented by Alaska attorneys.  The Board determined it had the inherent equitable  



                                                                                                                           

authority  to  enforce  the  contract  and  dismissed  the  Municipality's  petition  under  



       

AS 23.30.250(b).  



                                                                                                                                  

                    In  its  final  decision,  the  Board  decided  the  parties  had  entered  into  a  



                                                                                                                                 

contract to settle the case in December 2012, finding the following: "Employer made an  



                                                                                                                             

offer encompassing all the essential terms.  Employee unequivocal[ly] accepted those  



                                                                                                                               

terms.       Employee's  promise  to  pay  and  Employer's  promise  to  forebear  [sic]  are  



                                                                                                                           

consideration, and both parties' letters evince the intent to be bound."                                           The Board  



                                                                                                                                 

decided the Municipality should be equitably estopped from denying the authority of its  



                                                                                                            

employees to settle the case on  the terms set out in  the December  correspondence  



                                                                                                                      

because there was no way Stenseth or his attorney could have known prior to accepting  



                                                                                                       

the offer that Henderson and Heikes had exceeded their authority.  



                                                                                                                               

                    With respect to the provisions of AS 23.30.012, the Board noted first that  



                                                                                                                            

the  statute  had  been  amended  in  2005  to  dispense  with  Board  approval  of  some  



                                                                                                                       

settlements, including many settlements in which the parties are represented by attorneys  



                                                                -8-                                                         7064
  


----------------------- Page 9-----------------------

                                                               6  

licensed   to   practice   in   Alaska.     The   Board   decided  that  in   this   case,   the   parties'  



settlement   had   been   submitted   to   the   Board   through  the   filing   of   the   December  



correspondence.     Relying   on  one   of   its   regulations,   the   Board   then   said   that   any  



regulatory requirements as to the required form of the agreement were procedural and                                                          

                                                                                                                         7  It waived the procedural  

could be         waived if "manifest injustice" would otherwise result.                                                                                



requirements because the requirements "would have served no purpose" in the case and  

                                                                                                                                                                     



manifest injustice would result if the agreement were not enforced.  

                                                                                                                   



                          TheMunicipality appealed to theCommission, arguing that theBoard erred  

                                                                                                                                                                  



in finding that there was a binding settlement between the parties.  The Commission  

                                                                                                                                                  



determined  that  (1)  neither  AS  23.30.012  nor  the  Board's  settlement-agreement  

                                                                                                                                



regulations applied to this case; (2) the Board's findings about the existence of a contract  

                                                                                                                                                           



were  supported  by  substantial  evidence;  (3)  the  Board  properly  applied  equitable  

                                                                                                                                                        



estoppel against the Municipality; and (4) there was no need to satisfy the technical  

                                                                                                                                                          



requirements of the regulations. In deciding that AS 23.30.012 did not apply to this case,  

                                                                                                                                                                  



the Commission interpreted that statute as applying only to claims for injuries; because  

                                                                                                                                                            



the fraud petition did not involve a claim for injury, the Commission reasoned that  

                                                                                                                                                                    



section .012 did not apply.  The Municipality appeals.  

                                                                                            



             6            AS 23.30.012(b) ("The agreement shallbereviewed by apanel of the board                                                                 



if the claimant . . . is not represented by an attorney licensed to practice in this state, the                                                                       

beneficiary   is   a   minor   or   incompetent,   or   the   claimant   is   waiving   future   medical  

benefits.").  



             7            See 8 AlaskaAdministrativeCode(AAC) 45.195 (2011) (permitting Board  

                                                                                                                                                                

to waive or modify a "procedural requirement in this chapter . . . if manifest injustice to  

                                                                                                                                                                        

a party would result from a strict application of the regulation").  

                                                                                                       



                                                                                   -9-                                                                           7064
  


----------------------- Page 10-----------------------

III.        STANDARD OF REVIEW                



                        In   an    appeal    from    the    Alaska    Workers'    Compensation    Appeals  



                                                                                                                                      8  

 Commission, we review the Commission's decision rather than the Board's.                                                                         

                                                                                                                                         We apply  



                                                                                                                                                         9  

                                                                                                                                                            

                                                                                                                                        

 our independent judgment to questions of law that do not involve agency expertise. 



                                                                                                                                     

Interpretation of a statute is a question of law to which  we  apply our independent  



                                                                                                                                                

judgment, interpreting the statute according to reason, practicality, and common sense,  



                                                                                                                                                      

 considering  the  meaning  of  the  statute's  language,  its  legislative  history,  and  its  



                10  

                                                                                                                                                  

purpose.            We do not mechanically apply the plain meaning rule but use a sliding scale  



                                                                                                                                                      

 approach to statutory interpretation, in which "the plainer the statutory language is, the  



                                                                                                                                                11  

                                                                                                                                         

more convincing the evidence of contrary legislative purpose or intent must be." 



                                                                                                                                                      

                        We review questions of contract formation de novo when there are no  

                               12     We  independently  review  the  Commission's  conclusion  that  

                                                                                                                                                   

              

 factual  disputes. 



 substantial evidence in therecord supports the Board's factual findings by independently  

                                                                                                                                  

reviewing the record and the Board's findings.13  

                                                                     



            8           Shehata v. Salvation Army                        , 225 P.3d 1106, 1113 (Alaska 2010) (citing                           



Barrington v. Alaska Commc'ns Sys. Grp., Inc.                                        , 198 P.3d 1122, 1125 (Alaska 2008)).                   



            9           Id.  



            10          State, Div. of Workers' Comp. v. Titan Enters., L.L.C., 338 P.3d 316, 320  

                                                                                                                                                     

 (Alaska  2014)  (citing Monzulla  v.  Voorhees  Concrete  Cutting,  254  P.3d  341,  345  

                                                                                                                                                    

 (Alaska 2011)).  

                



            11          McDonnell  v.  State  Farm  Mut.  Auto.  Ins.  Co.,  299  P.3d  715,  721  

                                                                                                                                                   

 (Alaska 2013) (internal quotation marks, alterations, and citations omitted).  

                                                                                                                        



            12          Chilkoot  Lumber  Co.  v.  Rainbow  Glacier  Seafoods,  Inc.,  252  P.3d  

                                                                                                                              

 1011, 1014 (Alaska 2011).  

                                      



            13          Shehata, 225 P.3d at 1113.  

                                                               



                                                                          -10-                                                                    7064
  


----------------------- Page 11-----------------------

                         Whether a regulation applies to a case is reviewed using the independent     



                                    14  

judgment standard.                                                                                                                                                   

                                        Weusedifferent standards ofreviewwhen interpretingregulations:  



                                                                                                                                                         

we  "typically  interpret  regulations  with  some  deference  to   the  agency's  own  



                                                                                                                                                              

 interpretation," but when the agency that promulgated the regulation is not a party to the  



                                                                                                                                           

 action and "has not otherwise offered an interpretation," we apply our independent  

                   15  We review an agency's application of its regulation to the facts of a case "to  

judgment.                                                                                                                                                     



 determine whether the agency's decision was arbitrary, unreasonable, or an abuse of  

                                                                                                                                                               

 discretion."16  "We will find an abuse of discretion when we are left with the definite and  

                                                                                                                                                            

 firm conviction that a mistake has been made."17  

                                                                            



IV.          DISCUSSION  

                                                                                                                    18  Commonlawstandards  

                         Aworkers' compensation settlement is acontract.                                                                          

                                                                                                    



 of contract formation and rescission apply to workers' compensation settlements to the  

                                                                                                                                                             

 extent these standards are not overridden by statute.19                                                  We have recognized a strong  

                                                                                                                                                      

policy favoring settlements.20   Here, the Municipality contends that AS 23.30.012 voids  

                                                                                                                                                         



             14           Garner v. State, Dep't of Health & Soc. Servs., Div. of Med. Assistance                                                                ,  



 63 P.3d 264, 267 (Alaska 2003).                  



             15           Tea  ex  rel.  A.T. ,  278  P.3d   1262,   1263  (Alaska  2012).  



             16          Burke  v.  Houston  NANA,  L.L.C.,  222  P.3d  851,  857  (Alaska  2010).  



             17          Id.  



             18          Seybert           v.      Cominco    Alaska                   Exploration,                 182       P.3d         1079,         1093  



 (Alaska  2008)  (citing   Williams  v.  Abood ,  53  P.3d   134,   139  (Alaska  2002)).  



             19          Id.  



             20          See,  e.g., Mullins  v.  Oates,  179 P.3d  930,  937  (Alaska 2008)  (quoting  

                                                                                                                                                  

Municipality of Anchorage v. Schneider, 685 P.2d 94, 98 (Alaska 1984)); see also Kazan  

                                                                                                                                                       

v. Dough Boys, Inc., 201 P.3d 508, 514-15 (Alaska 2009) (setting out policy reasons that  

                                                                                                                                                            

                                                                                                                                         (continued...)  



                                                                              -11-                                                                       7064
  


----------------------- Page 12-----------------------

 any settlement the parties may have reached because the agreement was not submitted                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            



to the Board "in a form prescribed by the director," as that statutory section requires.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            It  



 additionally  contends   that   if   a   settlement   contract   was   formed,   the   Board   and  



 Commission did not enforce the correct agreement because Stenseth abandoned the first                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     



 settlement   in   favor   of   a   second   one.     Finally,   the   Municipality   contends   that   the  



 Commission erred in its application of equitable estoppel because not all of the elements                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        



were met in this case.                                                               



                                   A.	                                The Commission Correctly Determined That Substantial Evidence In                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

                                                                      The Record Supported The Board's Finding That The Parties Settled                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

                                                                      The Case In December 2012.                                                                                                      



                                                                      TheMunicipality does notdirectly question theCommission'sdecisionthat                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   



 substantial evidence supported the Board's finding that a settlement contract was formed                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  



 in the exchange of letters dated December 5 and 11.                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Instead, the Municipality argues                                                                                                         



that the Commission and the Board did not enforce the parties' most recent settlement.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            



 Whether   a   contract   of   settlement   existed  and  what   its   terms   encompassed   is   an  



underlying question that we address first.                                                                                                                                                   



                                                                     We agree with the Commission that substantial evidence supported the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     



 Board's finding that the parties entered into a binding settlement, the terms of which                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       



were set out in the correspondence dated December 5 and 11, 2012 between Heikes and                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         



 Rehbock.    "The formation of an express contract requires an offer encompassing its                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             



 essential terms, an unequivocal acceptance of the terms by the offeree, consideration[,]                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                                                                                                 21               All four elements are present here.  In its December 5  

 and an intent to be bound."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            



                                   20                                 (...continued)  



                                                                                                                                                                                    

 support enforcement of settlement agreements).  



                                   21                                 Childs v. Kalgin Island Lodge                                                                                                                                 , 779 P.2d 310, 314 (Alaska 1989) (citing                                                                                                                                               



Hall v. Add-Ventures, Ltd.                                                                                                                , 695 P.2d 1081, 1087 n.9 (Alaska 1985)).                                                                                                                                          



                                                                                                                                                                                                                      -12-	                                                                                                                                                                                                            7064
  


----------------------- Page 13-----------------------

letter, the Municipality made a written offer to Stenseth with the intent of binding the                                                                                                                      



Municipality.   The offer was specific and covered all essential terms. There was mutual                                                                                                             



consideration: Stenseth agreed to pay $30,000 to the Municipality, and the Municipality                                                                                               



agreed to release Stenseth from liability under AS 23.30.250.                                                                                             Stenseth unequivocally   



accepted the offer in writing.                       



                                 The Municipality does not appear to take the position, as it did before the                                                                                                  



Commission,   that   no   agreement   was   ever   reached.     Instead,   it   contends   that,  after  



Stenseth filed his petition to enforce the first settlement, the parties abandoned the                                                                                                                       



December settlement and entered                                                         into a second settlement.                                         Although "a party can                             

                                                                                                                                                                                     22  there is no  

abrogate an existing contract by accepting a new contract in its place,"                                                                                                                                       



evidence that the parties here actually reached a new agreement.  Pointing to an email  

                                                                                                                                                                                                        



from Heikes, the Municipality asserts that in January 2013, after Stenseth emailed a  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  



proposed settlement to the Municipality, "[t]he Municipality accepted the terms and  

                                                                                                                                                                                                            



advised  that  it  was  reviewing  the  document."                                                                           But  the  email  does  not  show  "an  

                                                                                                                                                                                                            

                                                                                                                                                                                                  23   After  

unequivocal acceptance" of Stenseth's offer, as required for contract formation.                                                                                                                         

                                                                                                                                                                         



noting that Stenseth had "substantially changed" the previous draft settlement, Heikes  

                                                    



wrote, "MOA will not sign as written."  She subsequently sent another draft settlement,  

                                                                                                                                                                                           



which Stenseth rejected. The parties attended a second mediation in late January, which  

                                                                                                                                                                                                       



included a discussion of a further exchange of consideration.  Continuing to negotiate,  

                                                                                                                                                                                              

absent a new agreement, does not abrogate an existing settlement contract.24  

                                                                                                                                                                   



                 22              Chilkoot   Lumber   Co.   v.   Rainbow   Glacier   Seafoods,   Inc.,   252   P.3d  



 1011,   1016   (Alaska   2011)   (citing   RESTATEMENT   (SECOND)   OF   CONTRACTS      279  

(1981)).  



                 23              Childs, 779 P.2d at 314 (citing Hall, 695 P.2d at 1087 n.9).  

                                                                                                                                                                        



                 24              Chilkoot Lumber Co., 252 P.3d at 1016.  

                                                                                                                      



                                                                                                      -13-                                                                                               7064
  


----------------------- Page 14-----------------------

                                                       The   Municipality   argues   that   the   continuing   negotiations   between   the  



 attorneys after Stenseth filed his petition to dismiss undercut the notion that the parties                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            



 intended to be bound by the agreement set out in the earlier letters.  But this argument   



 ignores the fact that Stenseth had filed a new petition; resolving that dispute would                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  



provide both parties a reason for continuing to negotiate.                                                                                                                                                                                There is nothing inconsistent                                           



 in trying to negotiate an agreement on the new petition while continuing to assert that the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           



Municipality   was   bound   by   the   settlement   created   when   Stenseth   accepted   the  



Municipality's December 5 offer of settlement.                                                                                                                                                    The factual record does not support the                                                                                                              



Municipality's assertion that a later settlement replaced the first.                                                                                                                                                                                 



                            B.	                        The Commission Correctly Determined That AS 23.30.012 Did Not                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

                                                       Apply To This Settlement.                                         



                                                       The Municipality argues that the Commission reversed longstanding law   



 and  practice   in   deciding   that   AS   23.30.012   did   not   apply   to   void   the   settlement  



                                                                                                 25  

 agreement in this case.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

                                                                                                              Stenseth responds that the Board decisions upon which the  



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Municipality relies are irrelevant because they predate statutory amendments that have  



                                                                                                 

 a direct bearing on this case.  



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

                                                       Alaska Statute 23.30.012 provides in relevant part:  



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

                                                                                   (a)                     At  any  time  after  death,  or  after  30  days  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

                                                        subsequent  to  the  date  of  injury,  the  employer  and  the  



                            25                         The Municipality contends that the Commission improperly "changed the                                                                                                                                                                                                                           



 law, after the fact" and applied a change in the law retroactively in this case.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This  

 argument has no merit.                                                                          As a general rule, legal decisions apply in the case announcing                                                                                                                                                   

the rule as well as subsequent cases.                                                                                                                    As we stated in                                                      Vienna v. Scott Wetzel Services,                                                                

Inc., "Absent special circumstances, a new decision of this court will be given effect                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    in  

 the case immediately before the court                                                                                                                    , and will be binding in all subsequent cases . . . ."                                                                                                                                                      

 740 P.2d 447, 449 (Alaska 1987) (emphasis added) (quoting                                                                                                                                                                                              Plumley v. Hale                                                    , 594 P.2d            

497, 502 (Alaska 1979)) (internal quotation marks omitted).                                                                                                                                                                                            The Municipality fails not                                                                      

 only to point to any special circumstances that would exempt it from this rule but also                                                                                                                                                                                                       

to recognize the statutory changes that undercut the authority of the Board cases it cites.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               



                                                                                                                                                                          -14-	                                                                                                                                                                 7064
  


----------------------- Page 15-----------------------

                                                                                                       

                    employee . . . have the right to reach an agreement in regard  

                                                                                                              

                    to  a  claim  for  injury  or  death  under  this  chapter,  but  a  

                                                                                                            

                    memorandum of the agreement in a form prescribed by the  

                                                                                                           

                    director  shall  be  filed  with  the  division.                     Otherwise,  the  

                                                                                                            

                    agreement is void for any purpose. Except as provided in (b)  

                                                                                                   

                    of   this   section,   an   agreement   filed   with   the   division  

                                                                                           

                    discharges the liability of the employer for the compensation,  

                                                                                                

                    notwithstanding the provisions of AS 23.30.130, 23.30.160,  

                                                                                                       

                    and 23.30.245, and is enforceable as a compensation order.  



                                                                                                            

                               (b)  The agreement shall be reviewed by a panel of the  

                                                                                                    

                    board if the claimant . . . is not represented by an attorney  

                                                                                                    

                    licensed to practice in this state . . . or the claimant is waiving  

                                                                                                           

                    future  medical  benefits.                If  approved  by  the  board,  the  

                                                                                                            

                    agreement is enforceable the same as an order or award of the  

                                                                                                           

                    board and discharges the liability of the employer for the  

                                                                                                          

                    compensation               notwithstanding                the      provisions           of  

                                                                                                

                    AS 23.30.130, 23.30.160, and 23.30.245.   The agreement  

                                                                                                    

                    shall be approved by the board only when the terms conform  

                                                                             

                    to the provisions of this chapter . . . .  



                                                                                                                           

                    This section permits an injured worker and his employer to settle a "claim  



                                                                                                                                

for injury or death" and requires the parties to an agreement to file it with the Board "in  



                                                                                                                                

a form prescribed by the director." The applicability of this section to the agreement the  



                                                                                                                                

parties reached depends on whether they reached "an agreement in regard to a claim for  



                                         

injury or death under this chapter."  



                                                                                                                               

                    The Municipality first contends that the Commission erred in deciding that  



                                                                                                                           

AS 23.30.012 and the Board's regulations about settlements do not apply unless a formal  



                                                                                                                        

workers' compensation claim is filed.  The Municipality also argues that the Board's  



                                                                                                                               

regulations define "claim" broadly enough to encompass its fraud petition because that  



                                                                                                                              

regulation  defines  "claim"  as  including  "any  matter  over  which  the  board  has  



                                                               -15-                                                         7064
  


----------------------- Page 16-----------------------

                                    26  

jurisdiction."                            Stenseth responds that the Municipality misinterprets the Commission's                                                                                 



 decision  and  that    "claim"    in    AS    23.30.012    refers    to    the    employee's    right    to  



 compensation.   He argues that the Commission correctly interpreted the statute because                                                                                                                          



 the Municipality's petition did not involve an "injury" as that word is defined in the                                                                                                                                        



 statute.  



                                    The Municipality's argument is based on a distinction between two uses of                                                                                                                     

                                                                                                                                                               27   but that distinction was  

 the word "claim" in workers' compensation proceedings,                                                                                                                                                                     



 immaterial to the Commission's decision.  The Commission decided that AS 23.30.012  

                                                                                                                                                                                                             



 did not apply because the settlement did not involve a "claim for injury or death" and did  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                               



 not discharge the employer's liability for compensation; instead "the settlement covered  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  



 efforts  on  the  part  of  [the  Municipality]  to  recoup  benefits  it  had  paid  Stenseth."  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          



 Alaska Statute 23.30.395(24) defines "injury" as an "accidental injury or death arising  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                     



 out of and in the course of employment, and an occupational disease or infection that  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                             



 arises naturally out of the employment or that naturally or unavoidably results from an  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

                                                 28   Because the legislature defined "injury" for purposes of the Alaska  

 accidental injury."                                                                                                                                                                                                 

                              

 Workers' Compensation Act, we apply that definition of "injury" here.29  

                                                                                                                                                                                 



                  26                8 AAC 45.900(5) (2011).                          



                  27                See Jonathan v. Doyon Drilling, Inc.                                                              , 890 P.2d 1121, 1124 (Alaska 1995)                                               



 (holding   that   word   "claim"   in   AS   23.30.110(c)   meant   written   claim   for   workers'  

 compensation  benefits);  Suh  v.  Pingo  Corp.,  736  P.2d  342,  346  (Alaska  1987)  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

 (discussing when employer can controvert a worker's right to compensation ("claim")                                                              

 before the worker files a written claim).                                              



                  28                AS 23.30.395(24).  

                                                                                        



                  29                See AS 01.10.040(a) (requiring words to be construed using legislative  

                                                                                                                                                                                                           

 definition).  



                                                                                                               -16-                                                                                                       7064
  


----------------------- Page 17-----------------------

                                             We agree with the Commission that the Municipality's fraud petition is not                                                                                                                                                                 



a claim for "injury" as that term is defined in AS 23.30.395.  This definition limits the                                                                                                                                                                                               



applicability   of   AS   23.30.012(a),   and   the   Municipality  does   not   explain   how   its  



allegation of fraud is an "injury" as that term is used in the statute.                                                                                                                                                                          Nor does the                          



Municipality discuss any legislative history that might suggest some meaning other than                                                                                                                                                                                             



the statute's plain meaning.                                                                    We thus agree with the Commission that an employer's                                                                                                        

                                                                                                                                                                                                                               30          As  a  result,  the  

fraud   petition  is  not  a   "claim   for   injury"   under   AS   23.30.012.                                                                                                                                                                                                       



settlement did not need to be "in a form prescribed by the director"; the Board could  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       



determine the existence of a settlement and the terms of that settlement based on the  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

parties' correspondence.31  

                           



                      30                     Because the parties were both represented by Alaska attorneys, the Board                                                                                                                                                        



did not have to approve the settlement or evaluate whether it was in Stenseth's best                                                                                                                                                                                                

interests in any event.  AS 23.30.012(b).  No one alleges that Stenseth was a minor or                                                                                                                                                         

incompetent, nor did he waive future medical benefits.                                                                                                                                  Id.   Thus, even if AS 23.30.012                                        

applied, theonlyapplicable                                                                 statutory  requirement wouldhavebeen that "amemorandum                                                                                                   

of the agreement in a form prescribed by the director shall be filed with the division."                                                                                                                                                                                                             

AS 23.30.012(a).   We have previously held that the Board can waive these procedural                                                                               

requirements,   as   it   did   here.     See   Cole   v.   Ketchikan   Pulp  Co.,  850  P.2d   642,   647  

(Alaska 1993) (holding that Board could waive requirement that settlement be signed by                                                                                                                                                                                                    

the parties and remanding to determine whether the requirement should be waived).                                                                                                                                                                                   

Thus, even if the statute applied, the Board did not exceed its authority in refusing to                                                                                                                                                                                                   

void the parties' settlement contract.                                                       



                      31                     Relatedly, the Municipality contends the Commission misconstrued the  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Board's regulation about settlements because that regulation required that all settlement  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

agreements "must be submitted in writing to the board, must be signed by all parties to  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

the action and their attorneys or representatives, if any, and must be accompanied by [a]  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

form . . . ."  8 AAC 45.160(b) (2011).  But even assuming the regulation could have  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

some applicability independent of AS 23.30.012, the Board can waive these procedural  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

requirements  if  "manifest  injustice"  would  result  from  "strict  application  of  the  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

regulation."  8 AAC 45.195.  The Board decided manifest injustice would result in this  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

case if it strictly applied the regulation, and the Municipality has not questioned the  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     (continued...)  



                                                                                                                                          -17-                                                                                                                                    7064
  


----------------------- Page 18-----------------------

                                                            The   Municipality   argues   that   under   the   Commission's   analysis,   an  



employee who waives benefits when settling a fraud petition will not be accorded the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     



protections   of   AS   23.30.012.     While   this   hypothetical   raises   interesting   questions  



concerning AS 23.30.012(b), Stenseth did not waive his future medical benefits in this                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             



 settlement.   We observe, however, that when an employee compromises benefits in a                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           



 settlement, those benefits are from a work-related injury, and the resulting settlement                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             



would discharge some of the employer's liability.   That is not the case here, where the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              



employer    sought    reimbursement.       We    affirm    the    Commission's    decision    that  



AS 23.30.012 is not applicable to the settlement here.                                                                                                                                                                    



                              C.	                           The   Commission   Correctly   Concluded   That   Equitable   Estoppel  

                                                            Prevented The Municipality From Avoiding The Settlement.                                                                                                                                                                                  



                                                            In addition to relying on statutory and regulatory defenses to enforcing the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              



 settlement, the Municipality also asserted that no settlement existed because Henderson                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           



and Heikes exceeded their authority when they made the December 5 offer.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         The Board   



applied equitable estoppel to prevent the Municipality from avoiding the settlement,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             



finding that all the elements of estoppel were met.                                                                                                                                                                                     The Commission agreed with the                                                                                                               



Board's analysis.   



                                                            The   Municipality   argues   here   that   the   Commission   applied   equitable  



estoppel incorrectly because Stenseth could not reasonably have relied on the settlement                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              



and because there was no "resulting prejudice" to him.                                                                                                                                                                                                According to the Municipality,                                                   



 Stenseth's continuing efforts to settle the case after he filed his petition in December                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           



indicate that the first settlement did not exist and that Stenseth did not rely on it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The  



Municipality further contends that it would be unjust to make it abide by the terms of the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            



 settlement.     Stenseth   responds   that   (1)   he   suffered   prejudice   in   the   form of                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    added  



                              31                            (...continued)  



                                                                                                                                

Board's use of its discretion here.  



                                                                                                                                                                                         -18-	                                                                                                                                                                                                     7064  


----------------------- Page 19-----------------------

attorney's fees and costs; (2) his reliance on the settlement was reasonable because the                                                                                                                   



offer   he   unequivocally   accepted   was   made   by   the   Municipality's  attorney,   the  



Municipality's "sole representative" in the case; and (3) no special consideration should                                                                                                          



be given to the Municipality as a government here because it is acting solely in its                                                                                                                        



capacity as an employer.            



                                We   agree   with   the   Commission   that   equitable   estoppel   prevents   the  



Municipality from denying the authority of its agents, Heikes and Henderson, to settle                                                                            



this case on the terms in the December 2012 correspondence. Even if the Municipality's                                                                                         



agents    exceeded    their   actual    authority    during    the    settlement    negotiations,    the  



Municipality could be estopped to deny their lack of authority if Stenseth proved the                                                                                                                      

                                                                                                                32     "(1) the governmental body asserts a  

elements of estoppel against the government:                                                                                                                                                                    



position by conduct or words; (2) the private party acts in reasonable reliance thereon;  

                                                                                                                                                                                               



(3) the private party suffers resulting prejudice; and (4) the estoppel serves the interest  

                                                                                                                                                                                                 

                                                                                         33   The Commission decided all elements were met,  

of justice so as to limit public injury."                                                                                                                                                                

                                                                       



and we agree.  

                   



                                 The Municipality does not contest that its agents asserted a position in the  

                                                                                                                                                                                                           



settlement negotiations, but it argues that no other element was met.   It claims that  

                                                                                                                                                                                       



Stenseth could not have relied on the offer because he continued to negotiate after he  

                                                                                                                                                                                                             



filed his petition to dismiss the fraud petition.  But as we noted earlier, there is nothing  

                                                                                                                                                                                                



inconsistent about attempting to negotiate a settlement related to the petition to dismiss  

                                                                                                                                                                                                 



                32              See RESTATEMENT  (THIRD) OF  AGENCY   2.03 cmt. g (2006) (noting that                                              



sovereign can be estopped to deny its agent's lack of authority).                                                                  



                33              Pfeifer v. State, Dep't of Health & Soc. Servs., Div. of Pub. Assistance,  

                                                                                                                                                                                       

260 P.3d 1072, 1082 (Alaska 2011) (quoting Allen v. State, Dep't of Health & Soc.  

                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Servs., Div. of Pub. Assistance, 203 P.3d 1155, 1164 (Alaska 2009)) (internal quotation  

                                                                                                                                                                                            

marks omitted).  

                 



                                                                                                    -19-                                                                                              7064
  


----------------------- Page 20-----------------------

while still maintaining that the original settlement should be enforced.                                                                                                                                                                               Furthermore,  



there was no way Stenseth or his attorney could have known that Henderson and Heikes                                                                                                                                                                                           



had   exceeded   their   authority.     As   the   Board   found,   neither   Henderson   nor   Heikes  



understood   the   limits   of   their   authority,   and   they   were   both   "relatively   high-level  



employees."     The   settlement   offer   was   on   Municipal   letterhead   and   signed   by   the  



attorney for the Municipality.                                                                          We hold that Stenseth's reliance on the Municipality's                                                                                      



conduct in negotiating the December settlement was reasonable.                                                                                                                       



                                              We agree with Stenseth that he suffered prejudice from the Municipality's                                                                                                                              



attempt to avoid the settlement.  Stenseth incurred additional attorney's fees and costs                                                                                                                                                               



after the Municipality refused the tender of funds from                                                                                                                               Stenseth; the additional fees were                                                               



a direct consequence of the Municipality's actions.                                                                                                



                                              Finally, the estoppel serves the interest of justice.                                                                                                                        In evaluating the last                                         



element, we have approved balancing "the gravity of the injustice to the citizen if the                                                                                                                                                                                                     



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  34  

doctrine is not applied" and "the injury to the                                                                                                      commonwealth if the doctrine is applied."                                                                                                            



The Municipality contends that enforcing the settlement bars it "from any chance of ever  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        



recovering" additional money from Stenseth. But the Municipality did not ask Stenseth  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          



to pay additional money in the negotiations following discovery of the "glitch." It would  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  



be unfair to Stenseth not to hold the Municipality to its bargain when he could not  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           



possibly  have  known  the  limits  on  the  scope  of  the  Municipality's  worker's  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     



compensation attorney's and its workers' compensation administrator's authority.  The  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        



settlement only involved one party, so there is little injury to the general public, and the  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            



claim is unproved.  The strong public policy in favor of settling disputes also weighs in  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                



                       34                    Municipalityof Anchorage v.                                                                        Schneider, 685 P.2d 94, 97 n.6 (Alaska 1984)                                                                                       



(quoting 2 C. A                                       NTIEAU, M                            UNICIPAL  CORPORATION  LAW    16A.06, at 16A-15 (1984))                                                                                                                          

(internal quotation marks omitted).                                                     



                                                                                                                                             -20-                                                                                                                                     7064
  


----------------------- Page 21-----------------------

                                                         35  

favor of estoppel here.                                         We agree with the Commission that the Municipality was                                                  



properly estopped to deny the authority of its agents and the existence of a settlement in                                                                                                                      



this case.   



V.               CONCLUSION  



                                 We AFFIRM the Commission's decision.  

                                                                                                                  



                35               See id. at 98 (citing policy in favor of settlements in deciding that estoppel  

                                                                                                                                                                                                

should apply).  

                  



                                                                                                     -21-                                                                                               7064  

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