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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:John D. Hagberg was injured while working for the city. He received an impairment rating of 20 percent, which entitled him to receive Supplemental Income Benefits (SIBs). The city disputed Hagberg’s impairment rating before the Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission (TWCC). After a benefit review conference, a hearing officer found Hagberg’s impairment rating to be 20 percent. The city sought review by an appeals panel of the TWCC, which upheld the hearing officer’s decision. In February 2004, the city filed suit seeking to reverse the TWCC’s determination of Hagberg’s impairment rating. Hagberg’s answer to the city’s suit asserted a general denial to the claims and requested attorneys’ fees. Less than one month before the February 2005 trial date, and after the case had been on file for more than 11 months, the city nonsuited Hagberg. Before the trial court ruled on the motion, Hagberg filed a motion seeking attorneys’ fees. In its response, the city challenged the request for attorneys’ fees by making two arguments. First, the city claimed that there was no prevailing party entitled to attorneys’ fees, because it nonsuited the suit. Thus, the city argued, neither party prevailed. Second, the city asserted that Hagberg’s pleadings requesting attorneys’ fees were insufficient to constitute a claim for affirmative relief, because he did not request attorneys’ fees by counterclaim or by naming any particular statute. The trial court granted the city’s nonsuit and denied Hagberg’s request for attorneys’ fees without stating the reason for its ruling. Hagberg filed a motion for new trial that asserted that he was entitled to attorneys’ fees because 1. He requested attorneys’ fees in his answer to the suit; and 2. Texas Labor Code �408.221 entitles the prevailing party in a suit to attorneys’ fees. The trial court denied Hagberg’s motion for new trial. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. The city asserted that Hagberg waived his appellate challenge to the trial court’s order by limiting his issue on appeal to the sole complaint that the trial court erred by not finding him the prevailing party in the suit. By limiting his appeal, the city argued that Hagberg failed to challenge the second ground that the city asserted in its motion to dismiss relating to the sufficiency of Hagberg’s pleadings requesting attorneys’ fees. But the court did not agree that Hagberg waived his right to appeal the trial court’s order. The city then asserted that there is no prevailing party when a suit is nonsuited. Hagberg responded that the procedural posture of this suit is different from an ordinary suit, because the city filed the suit to challenge an award in his favor by the TWCC appeals panel. The award became final and enforceable after the nonsuit, thus making Hagberg the prevailing party. The Texas Labor Code, the court noted, does not define “prevailing party.” The goal in construing a statute, the court stated, is to give effect to the Legislature’s intent. The city’s nonsuit placed the parties back in their positions before the suit’s filing, which means that Hagberg has a final decision in his favor by the TWCC appeals panel. Thus, Hagberg is in the same position by the nonsuit of the case as he would have been if he had prevailed on the merits. Concluding its analysis, the court then held that when an insurance carrier files a suit appealing the decision in favor of the worker by the TWCC appeals panel under �408.221, and subsequently dismisses the suit, the employee is the prevailing party entitled to attorneys’ fees. The court held that the trial court erred by denying Hagberg’s request for attorneys’ fees, because Hagberg was the prevailing party under �408.221. OPINION:Alcala, J.; Taft, Alcala and Hanks, J.J.

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