In a headline-making workers’ compensation case, the South Carolina Supreme Court has recently heaped criticism on the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Susan Barden. SC Supreme Court hearing goes against workers’ comp commissioner. Barden had been involved in a workers’ compensation case involving a former state Highway Patrol trooper Scott Ledford.
Ledford was seriously injured in a 2012 motorcycle crash while on duty. The accident forced Ledford to leave his job in the law enforcement. Ledford and his lawyer sought workers’ compensation for his injuries but in a 2014 ruling, Commissioner Barden refused the claim.
According to Ledford’s lawyer, Hood Temple, Barden discussed the case over phone and threatened Ledford and his lawyer with criminal proceedings is they didn’t accept a minimal settlement. This was done before she could issue a formal order. In response to such extra-legal handling of the case, Temple called on Barden to recuse herself from the case. However, Barden refused and awarded no compensation to Ledford. Temple and Ledford’s reputations suffered as a result of the ruling.
The case has since been brought to the South Carolina Supreme Court where the court recently listened to the witnesses of the controversial phone call. The testimony from the witnesses showed that Barden had indeed made threats and pronounced a decision over the call.
In response to this testimony, the court has condemned the conduct of Commissioner Barden, called it offensive and questioned her impartiality. Barden may be subject to disciplinary action that is mandated against judges alleged of wrongdoing. However, such disciplinary action may be initiated only once a formal complaint is lodged against her.
On her part, Barden has defended her 2014 decision. According to her, the Supreme Court does not have the full facts of the case, many of which are still confidential. Barden believes that with these facts, it becomes clear that Ledford deserves no compensation.