Hearing Update from the North Carolina Industrial Commission

Update from the North Carolina Industrial Commission

Deputy Commissioner Hearings (Non-Medical Motion Hearings) will resume in June 2020 via Webex. Below is information from the Industrial Commission’s website concerning the current policies/procedures for these hearings:

The Commission is pleased to announce that Deputy Commissioners will resume hearing all types of workers’ compensation cases in June 2020 through the use of Webex technology. This policy is consistent with Chief Justice Cheri Beasley’s May 21, 2020 Order directing judicial officials to “make use of remote hearing technology to the greatest extent possible to limit in-person appearances” and will help prevent a future backlog of Deputy Commissioner cases.

June 2020 Docket

For cases on the June 2020 docket where both parties are represented, the parties may jointly request a Webex hearing by emailing the presiding Deputy Commissioner, and the Deputy Commissioner will make every effort to proceed with the Webex hearing in June. If the Deputy Commissioner is unable to hold the Webex hearing in June, the case will be set for a Webex hearing in July or as soon as possible thereafter.

Any case scheduled for June that is not heard via Webex will be continued to be reset on a future docket. A Continuance Order will not be filed in each case, but the parties will be notified via email or U.S. mail (if email is not available) that the case has been continued. There will be no in-person hearings held in June unless otherwise ordered by the Commission.

Note: The above applies to regular workers’ compensation hearings and NOT medical motion hearings arising under G.S. §97-25(f). For information regarding medical motion hearings, please see the prior announcement.

July 2020 and Future Dockets

Beginning in July of 2020 and continuing until further notice, the Commission plans to docket all Deputy Commissioner hearings as Webex hearings. If a party believes that a hearing should be held in-person while the State court system is under COVID-19 emergency directives, the party may file a motion for an in-person hearing with the presiding Deputy Commissioner. The moving party must show good cause as to why an in-person hearing should be allowed in light of the emergency directive to “make use of remote hearing technology to the greatest extent possible to limit in-person appearances.”

If a party believes that a case is neither appropriate for a Webex hearing nor appropriate to be heard in-person at the present time, the party may file a motion to temporarily remove the case from the hearing docket with the presiding Deputy Commissioner. Consistent with existing Commission procedure, if the motion is granted, the case will be removed for an indefinite period of time, and it will not be necessary to file a new Form 33 to return the case to the hearing docket. Upon notification to the Clerk’s Office by the party requesting the temporary removal, the case will be set on the next available hearing docket.

Webex Hearing Requirements

The Commission will need an email address and phone number for each person who will participate in the Webex hearing, including each witness who may be called to testify at the hearing. Each Webex hearing participant will be sent a Webex hearing invitation via email. The Webex hearing can be joined by clicking on a link in the email.

The only technological requirements for participation in a Webex hearing are an email address, a computer or other device (such as a tablet or smart phone) equipped with a camera, and an internet connection. A free Webex application is available to install on computers and other devices. The Webex application is not required to participate in the Webex hearing from a laptop or other computer; however, the application is required when using a mobile device (such as an iPad or other tablet or an iPhone or other smartphone).

Hearing participants planning to join a Webex hearing from a desktop should confirm that the desktop is equipped with a camera. If the desktop does not have a built-in camera, a webcam can be attached to the desktop. Webcams are available for purchase online and at electronics stores.

Hearing participants experiencing poor audio quality (or who have no microphone on their computer or other device) may establish an audio connection using a mobile phone or land line. Note: Regardless of how a participant connects for purposes of audio, the participant must appear by video, and therefore a computer or other device equipped with a camera is required.