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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:The Texas Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fund (“Texas Mutual”) challenges the decision of an appeals panel of the Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission. The appeals panel reversed a commission hearing officer’s decision and awarded lifetime income benefits to the claimant, Leonard D. Watts, for injuries Watts received during the course and scope of his employment as a truck driver for Mono Chem Corp. Texas Mutual appealed, and a Travis County district court determined that the appeals panel acted outside of its statutory authority in reversing the decision of the hearing officer. Texas Labor Code �410.204(a). The district court set aside the appeals-panel decision but refused to reinstate the decision of the hearing officer, as was requested by Texas Mutual. HOLDING:Reversed and rendered. The main thrust of Texas Mutual’s argument is that �410.204(a) dictates that the appeals panel may only determine the “issues” Watts actually presented to it on appeal, namely res judicata and collateral estoppel. Texas Mutual argues that by deciding the case on factual-sufficiency grounds, an “issue” that was not before it, the appeals panel issued a decision in violation of �410.204(a). Because the appeals-panel decision was not “in accordance with” �410.204(a) according to Texas Mutual’s reading of that section, Texas Mutual argues that �410.204(c) mandates that the hearing officer’s decision (in favor of Texas Mutual) should then become final. Although no Texas court has directly addressed the interpretation of “issue” advanced by Texas Mutual, Texas courts discussing “issues” in the context of the workers’ compensation act have repeatedly characterized “issue” as being related to the underlying workers’ compensation claim. The court also agrees with the commission that the legal doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel were merely subarguments advanced by Watts in rebutting the decision of the hearing officer. Although the appeals panel did not use the terms “res judicata” or “collateral estoppel,” it is clear that the appeals panel ruled as it did because it believed the 1996 hearing had already determined that the 1994 compensable injury led to Watts’ physical impairment, including the loss of use of both feet, at or above the ankle. Section 410.204(a) states that “an appeals panel shall issue a decision that determines each issue on which review was requested.” Section 410.204(a) does not state, however, that the appeals panel must decide each issue on which review is requested � here, Watts’ eligibility for lifetime income benefits � for the exact legal reason urged by the party seeking review. The court concludes that the appeals panel decided this issue in accordance with its authority under ��410.203 and 410.204 and overrules Texas Mutual’s contention in that regard. Because the district court erred in setting aside the decision of the appeals panel, the court reverses the judgment of the district court and renders judgment affirming the decision of the Commission’s appeals panel. OPINION:Kidd, J.

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