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AGO 1954 No. 277 - June 23, 1954
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

REPLACEMENT OR REPAIR OF ARTIFICIAL SUBSTITUTES.

Where an injured workman loses one or more limbs, it is not the responsibility of the Department of Labor & Industries at the expense of the accident fund to replace or repair artificial substitutes for injuries occurring prior to the effective date of the 1951 act, there being no language in the act which would indicate that it be given retroactive effect.

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                                                                   June 23, 1954

Mr. John Shaughnessy
Supervisor of Industrial Insurance
Department of Labor & Industries
Olympia, Washington                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 277

Dear Sir:

            This is to acknowledge your letter of June 11, 1954, wherein you request our opinion with respect to the meaning of the second paragraph of RCW 51.36.020.

            The questions which you have presented may be stated as follows:

            1. Where an injured workman loses one or more limbs prior to the effective date of the 1951 act, is the department responsible for additional artificial substitutes?

            2. Does the law contemplate replacement or repair of substitutes which have worn out?

            3. Would the 1951 act operate retroactively?

            We are of the opinion that the legislature intended that the replacement or repair of all mechanical appliances required as permanent equipment speaksin future and includes only those cases where the injury occurred subsequent to the effective date of the 1951 act, June 6, 1951.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Section 2, chapter 186, Laws of 1943, § 7714, Rem. Supp. 1943, provided in part as follows:

            "* * *  Every workman whose injury shall result in the loss of one or more limbs or eyes, shall beonce provided with proper artificial substitutes to be purchased by the Department at the expense of the accident fund.  Every workman, who shall suffer a penetrating wound of the cornea producing an error of refraction, shall be once provided at the expense of the accident fund, proper and properly equipped lenses to correct such error of refraction, and his disability rating shall be based upon the corrected result.  Every workman, whose accident shall result in damage to or destruction of an artificial limb, eye or tooth, shall have same repaired or replaced at the expense of the accident fund.  All mechanical appliances necessary in the treatment of an injured workman, such as braces, belts, casts and crutches may be provided at the expense of the medical aid fund and all mechanical appliances required as permanent equipment after treatment has been completed shall be once provided at the expense of the accident fund.  * * *" (Emphasis supplied)

            By Laws of 1951, chapter 236, § 6, [cf. RCW 51.36.020] section 2, chapter 186, Laws of 1943, § 7714, Rem. Supp. 1943, was amended to read in part as follows:

            "Every workman whose injury results in the loss of one or more limbs or eyes shall be provided with proper artificial substitutes to be purchased by the Department at the expense of the accident fund.  Every workman, who suffers a penetrating wound of the cornea producing an error of refraction, shall be once provided, at the expense of the accident fund, proper and properly equipped lenses to correct such  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] error of refraction and his disability rating shall be based upon the loss of sight before correction.  Every workman, whose accident results in damage to or destruction of an artificial limb, eye or tooth, shall have same repaired or replaced at the expense of the accident fund.  All mechanical appliances necessary in the treatment of an injured workman, such as braces, belts, casts and crutches, may be provided at the expense of the medical aid fund and all mechanical appliances required as permanent equipment after treatment has been completed shall be provided at the expense of the accident fund.  * * *"

            In the 1951 amendment, the legislature in omitting the word "once" preceding the word "provided" must have intended that future replacements or repairs of artificial appliances should be furnished at the expense of the accident fund.

            There is no language in the amendatory act which would compel a conclusion that the statute should be given retrospective effect.

            It is fundamental that a statute will be given prospective interpretation unless by its terms it is expressly declared to be retroactive.  Great Northern R. Co. v. Cohn, 3 Wn. (2d) 672; In re Cascade Fixture Co., 8 Wn. (2d) 263;Nelson v. Department of Labor & Industries, 9 Wn. (2d) 621; Lynch v. Department of Labor & Industries, 19 Wn. (2d) 802;Barlia v. Department of Labor & Industries, 23 Wn. (2d) 126; andBodine v. Department of Labor & Industries, 29 Wn. (2d) 879.

            Consideration of the statute now in force, in the light of the omission of the word "once" in two given instances, convinces us that it was the intention of the legislature that the act should operate prospectively and not retrospectively.

            You are accordingly advised that in our opinion it would not be the responsibility of the department to replace or repair artificial appliances which had been furnished for injuries occurring prior to the effective date of the 1951 act.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

BERNARD A. JOHNSON
Assistant Attorney General

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