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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Wood Jones cut his finger at work in March 1978. Several days later, he suffered chills, fever, joint pain, diarrhea and severe headache. He was diagnosed with a staphylococcal aureus infection and hospitalized. He took antibiotics and recovered. In June 1978, Jones went to the emergency room and was treated for congestive heart failure and possible pneumonia. He had an aortic heart valve replaced, and he was diagnosed as suffering from bacterial endocarditis. In March 1979, the predecessor agency to the Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission awarded benefits to Jones. It ordered Illinois Employers Insurance of Wausau to pay Jones $91 per week for several weeks and left open the possibility of future medical expenses for Jones’ lifetime. Wausau did not appeal the order. In June 1993, in response to an application by Jones, the TWCC ordered Wausau to pay Jones for the medical expenses he had incurred since the 1979 order. Wausau appealed, and Jones moved for summary judgment on res judicata grounds on the issue of whether his heart problems were caused by his cut finger. After an initial ruling for Jones, and a premature appeal by Wausau, the trial court eventually rendered a final judgment in Jones’s favor in August 1996. The trial court specifically found that Wausau had unsuccessfully contested the link between Jones’ cut finger and his heart condition. Wausau’s appeal to the 1st Court of Appeals was dismissed after the parties reached a settlement. Since 1997, TWCC has entered seven more orders for Wausau to pay Jones’ medical expenses, and Wausau appealed each order. All seven appeals were consolidated for the trial court into this case. In 2002, the Colorado County District Court granted Wausau’s motion for summary judgment, which was again based on a challenge to the causal connection between Jones’ cut finger and the heart infection. On appeal, Jones argues that res judicata bars Wausau’s challenge. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. Reviewing the summary judgment evidence, the court finds that it is reasonable to conclude that the 1979 workers’ comp board fully and fairly litigated the issue of whether Jones’ heart ailment was a compensable injury. For instance, the amount of benefits was greater than what compensation would have been for just a cut finger. Also, the board ordered Wausau to pay Jones’ cardiologist, and the affidavit of Jones’ wife stated that Wausau had presented evidence that the heart condition was not related to the cut finger, but that board rejected the contention. The 1996 trial court ruling in Jones’ favor remains intact, too. In that ruling, the trial court ruled that the 1979 board findings could not be collaterally attacked by Wausau. The appeal’s dismissal due to settlement does not affect the trial court ruling, despite the settlement’s inclusion of a clause agreeing to vacate the trial court’s findings of facts and conclusions of law, and to release Wausau from liability imposed by that court. Nowhere, the court points out, is there an agreement to render the trial court’s judgment of no effect. The ruling, therefore, is entitled to preclusive effect in this court. The court rejects Wausau’s contention that under the old statute, Revised Civil Statutes Art. 8307, �5, prohibits the use of collateral estoppel in circumstances such as these. After reviewing the history of this provision, the court concludes Wausau’s reading too broad. “The res judicata provisions safeguard the insurer only to the extent that it does not have to provide for future medical expenses until they are incurred and that the insured is required to show that those future medical expenses are reasonable and necessary to relieve the worker from the effects naturally resulting from a compensable injury. This ensures that an injured employee will not be able to recover any amount of unreasonable medical expenses, whether related to the injury on the job or not. This section does not contemplate the continued relitigation of whether the injury was compensable.” OPINION:Ross, J.; Morriss, C.J., Ross and Carter, JJ.

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