New Minnesota Supreme Court Decision: Oseland v. Crow Wing Cnty., No. A18-1550 (Supreme Court – May 29, 2019)

Issue: INTEREST, PENALITIES, COSTS & DISBURSEMENTS

 

Oseland v. Crow Wing Cnty., No. A18-1550 (Supreme Court – May 29, 2019)

 

Issue: The primary issue was determining the date that interest begins to accrue for an underpayment of permanent total disability benefits (“PTD”).

 

Holding: Interest accrued on the date that each underpayment is made at a variable interest rate in effect at that time.

 

Facts: In this case, the employee sustained an admitted injury, and the employer/insurer began paying benefits. The employee was eventually found to be permanently and totally disabled, and began receiving PTD benefits. Then, Employee began receiving retirement benefits from Public Employee’s Retirement Association, and the employer/insurer began deducting the amount of said benefits from PTD. This action was supported by case law precedent at that time. This benefit rate (PTD rate less retirement benefit) continued until employee passed away in 2013.

 

In 2014, the Supreme Court decided Ekdahl v. Independent School District #213, 851 N.W. 2d 874 (Minn. 2014), and Hartwig v. Traverse Care Center, 852 N.W. 2d 251 (Minn. 2014). Both cases held that the Workers’ Compensation Act does not allow insurers to reduce the amount of PTD benefits paid by the amount of public employee retirement benefits employees receive.

 

Thereafter, employee’s heirs filed a Claim Petition seeking underpaid benefits and interest. The employer and insurer denied that any interest was owed due to the change in precedent. At Hearing, the compensation judge found that the heirs were entitled to interest at a variable rate starting from the date of the initial underpayment of PTD benefits. On appeal, the WCCA overturned this and found that no interest was owed because there was no accrual of interest until the obligation to pay is both “fixed and ascertainable.” The case was appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

 

Minnesota Supreme Court Analysis: The question of whether interest accrued on the underpaid benefits hinges on when those benefits were “due” under Minn. Stat. § 176.221, subd. 7. This Court agreed with the compensation judge that the benefits deducted were “due” when each reduced benefit payment was made. The employer and insurer argued that the underpaid benefits did not become “due” until Ekdahl and Hartwig were decided. The Court held that employee’s offset benefits were due under Minn. Stat. § 176.221, subd. 7, on the date of each underpayment, and therefore, bear interest from those dates. In determining the rate of interest accrued, the court found that the right to a particular interest rate does not vest until there has been an underpayment, thus, the applicable interest rate should be the rate in effect on the date of the underpayment. The Court denied penalties and costs.

 

Click HERE for a printable version.

 

Summary by: Parker T. Olson and Michelle I. Kelly

WCCA Case Summaries April 2019

WCCA case summaries for April 2019, made possible by Michelle Kelly, CWK Law Student.  Click HERE for the full case summaries.

  • Issue: Vacation of Award – Substantial Change in Condition – Wolters v. Curry Sanitation, Inc., No. WC18-6207 (April 2, 2019)
  • Issue: Causation – Substantial Evidence – Klein v. Minn. Association of Townships, No. WC19-6243 (April 15, 2019)

New Minnesota Supreme Court Decision: Johnson v. Darchucks Fabrication, Inc., No. A18-1131 (Minn., April 24, 2019)

Issue: TREATMENT PARAMETERS

 

Johnson v. Darchucks Fabrication, Inc., No. A18-1131 (Minn., April 24, 2019)

 

In this case, the employee suffered an ankle injury in 2002. Eventually, the employee was diagnosed with “complex regional pain syndrome” (CRPS), which is recognized and governed by the Minnesota treatment parameters. Liability was accepted. The parties reached a settlement in 2004. The Stipulation left medical benefits open, and employer and insurer agreed to pay ongoing medical expenses that were reasonably required to cure and relieve the employee’s symptoms.

 

In May 2016, the employee underwent an IME, which opined that the source of employee’s symptoms were not caused by his CRPS. Based on the report, the insurer advised the employee’s physician that it was discontinuing coverage for treatment and medication for employee’s CRPS. The insurer requested that employee’s physician begin a plan within 30 days to wean the employee from his opioid medication and bring his treatment pursuant to the treatment parameters relating to long-term use of opioid medications (Minn. R. 5221.6110). The employee’s physician did not put a compliance plan in place. The insurer suspended all payment of expenses and employee filed a Medical Request seeking payment to cover the cost of his medications.

 

A Hearing was held in July 2017. The compensation judge concluded that by asserting the employee’s CRPS had resolved, the employer had in effect “denied liability” for the injury, and therefore the treatment parameters do not apply. The Workers Compensation Court of Appeals (“WCCA”) affirmed the compensation judge’s decision, concluding that treatment parameters did not apply because the employer in effect denied that a causal connection existed between the employee’s work-related injury and his present symptoms.

 

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issue was whether the WCCA erred in concluding that the treatment parameters do not apply to the employee’s course of treatment. The rules provide that the treatment parameters do not apply to treatment if the employer “denied liability for the injury.” But even if an employer denies liability, the treatment parameters “do apply to treatment initiated after liability has been established.” Minn. R. 5221.6020, subp. 2.

 

The Supreme Court concluded that the phrase “liability for the injury” in Rule 5221.6020, referred to the employer’s obligation to pay statutory benefits for personal injuries that are covered by the workers’ compensation act. Consequently, an employer may not invoke treatment parameters when it denies liability, that is, when the employer claims that it is not obligated to pay compensation for an injury. The treatment parameters nevertheless “apply to treatment initiated after liability has been established.” Minn. R. 5221.6020. Stated differently, once a dispute about an injury is resolved in favor of benefits coverage – by the determination of a compensation judge, or stipulation of the parties – the ongoing treatment of the covered injury is then subject to the parameters set forth in the rules. The Court concluded that the ban on applying the treatment parameters under the rule applies only when an employer denies that it has an obligation under the act to pay compensation for an alleged workplace injury.

 

In this case, because the employer did not contest its liability to pay for treatment that was reasonably required to cure and relieve the effects of the employee’s workplace ankle injury, it had not denied liability for the injury under Rule 5221.6020, subpart 2. Therefore, the treatment parameters apply. The Court reversed the decision of the WCCA and remanded the case to the workers’ compensation judge for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.

 

Summary by: Michelle I. Kelly

WCCA Case Summaries January through March 2019

WCCA case summaries for January, February, and March, 2019, made possible by the Michelle Kelly, CWK Law Student.  Click HERE for the full case summaries.

  • Issue: Rehabilitation – Qualified Employee; Temporary Total Disability – Work Restrictions – Smith v Kmart/Sears Holding Co., No. WC18-6181 (January 3, 2019)
  • Issue: Statutes Construed – MINN. STAT. 176.011; Evidence – Expert – Smith v Carver County, No. WC18-6180 (January 4, 2019)
  • Issue: Vacation of Award – Substantial Change in Condition – Franzen-Derrick v. Life Line Screening of Am., No. WC18-6160 (January 4, 2019)
  • Issue: Vacation of Award – Swanson v. Kath Fuel Oil Serv., No. WC18-6154 (January 10, 2019)
  • Issue: Rehabilitation – Rehabilitation Request; Practice & Procedure – Intervention; Settlements, Exclusion, Winstead v. Martin Luther Manor/Fairview Health Svcs., No. WC18-6191 (January 16, 2019)
  • Issue: Medical Treatment & Expense – Reasonable & Necessary; Evidence – Expert Medical Opinion, Johnson v. St. Paul Eye Clinic P.A., No. WC18 – 6203 (January 18, 2019)
  • Issue: Causation – Temporary Injury; Medical Treatment & Expense – Substantial Evidence; Intervenors, Daza Zaragoza v. Golden Employment Group, Inc., No. WC18-6198 (January 31, 2019)
  • Issue: Causation – Consequential Injury; Practice & Procedure – Remand, Hyland v. St. Mary’s Hosp., Mayo Clinic, No. WC18-6194 (February 4, 2019)
  • Issue: Vacation of Award – Substantial Change in Condition, Strand v. R&L Carriers Shared Servs., LLC., No. WC18-6202 (February 14, 2019)
  • Issue: Jurisdiction – Subject Matter; Rules – MINN. R. 1420.3700, Childs v. Alternative Bus. Furniture, Inc., No. WC18-6208 (February 21, 2019)
  • Issue: Evidence – Expert Medical Opinion; Causation – Substantial Evidence, Abed v. Era Venture Capital, WC18-6200 (February 22, 2019)
  • Issue: Attorney Fees – Heaton Fees, Dilley v. Carver Cnty. Sheriff, No. WC18-6205 (February 22, 2019)
  • Issue: Apportionment – Ward v. Bang Printing, Inc., No. WC18-6209 (February 27, 2019)
  • Issue: Causation – Substantial Evidence – Gilbertson v. Ideacom Mid Am. Inc., No. WC18-6213 (March 4, 2019)
  • Issue: Rehabilitation – Fees and Expenses – Ewing v. Print Craft, Inc., No. WC18-6197 (March 12, 2019)
  • Issue: Vacation of Award, Block v. Exterior Remodelers, Inc., WC18-6214 (March 19, 2019)
  • Issue: Causation – Substantial Evidence; Wages – Calculation; Vacation of Award – Fraud, Sanderson v. Indep. Sch. Dist. 316, No. WC18-6216 and No. WC18-6223 (March 22, 2019)
  • Issue: Statutes Construed – MINN. STAT. 176.179 – Roberts v Hibbing Taconite Mining, No. WC18-6219 (March 26, 2019)
  • Issue: Arising Out of & In the Course of – Goehring v. Patricia Bouwman d/b/a Gingerbread House Cafe, WC18-6222 (March 26, 2019)

 

WCCA Case Summaries November and December 2018

WCCA case summaries for November and December, 2018, made possible by the Associates and Law Students of CWK.  Click HERE for the full case summaries.

  • Issue: Diagnosis and Causation of a Psychological Condition – Tami L. Petrie v. Todd County, No. WC18-6176 (W.C.C.A. November 19, 2018)
  • Issue: Medical Treatment & Expense – Roux v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, No. WC18-6174 (November 28, 2018)
  • Issue: Expert Medical Opinion – Crosby v .TAK Commc’ns, Inc., No. WC18-6190 (W.C.C.A. December 14, 2018)
  • Issue: Medical Treatment & Expense – Reasonable and Necessary; Evidence – Expert Medical Opinion – Thaemert v. Honeywell International, Inc. No. WC18-6164 (WCCA Dec. 20, 2018)
  • Issue: Causation – Substantial Evidence; Temporary Aggravation – Cole v. Lametti & Sons, Inc., No. WC18-6195 (W.C.C.A. Dec. 20, 2018):

 

New Minnesota Supreme Court Decision: Claude Bruton v. Smithfield Foods, Inc., A18-0914 (Minn. Feb. 27, 2019)

Issue: Whether temporary total disability benefits can be offset by the amount of short-term disability benefits previously paid under an employer’s self-funded and self-administered plan for the same period of disability.

 

Answer: No.

 

In this case, Claude Bruton (“Employee”) sustained an injury after a fall while working for Smithfield Foods, Inc. (“Self-Insured Employer”), which maintained its own workers’ compensation and short-term disability policy. Employee’s workers’ compensation claim was denied, but he was paid short-term disability benefits through March 26, 2017. After Employee filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, Self-Insured Employer admitted liability for the injury. As a result, Self-Insured Employer began paying temporary total disability benefits starting on March 27, 2017. They also paid retroactive temporary total disability to make up the difference, but elected to offset the previously paid short-term disability benefits. It was argued that since Employee had already been paid short-term disability benefits, paying temporary total disability would result in double recovery. At the Hearing, the compensation judge agreed, and determined that Self-Insured Employer was entitled to offset short-term disability benefits already paid. The matter was appealed.

 

The WCCA reversed and determined that there was no statutory authority for an offset of TTD benefits against previously paid STD benefits. The WCCA concluded that the STD benefits did not constitute wage-continuation payments, and that Self-Insured Employer had no contractual right to reimbursement. The matter was appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

 

The Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed. They agreed held that temporary total disability benefits cannot be offset by short-term disability benefits previously paid under a self-funded and self-administered plan. The Court relied on the fact that the Legislature has enacted provisions that provide employers with certain offset remedies, but those statutes are not applicable to self-funded short-term disability. This is an area for the Minnesota Legislature to address instead of the Minnesota Supreme Court.

 

In the concurrence opinion, Justice Thissen wrote that this decision does not foreclose an employer from seeking reimbursement for short-term disability benefits paid to an employee under a contract that requires such reimbursement. In other words, if a STD plan allows for an offset or reimbursement contractually, then such recovery may be allowed.

 

This summary provided by Parker Olson.

 

WCCA Case Summaries September & October 2018

WCCA case summaries for September and October, made possible by the Associates and Law Students of CWK, are available on the CWK website.  Click HERE for the full case summaries.

 

  • Issue: Medical Treatment & Expense – Treatment Parameters; Rules Construed: Loupe v. McNeilus Steel, Inc., No. WC18-6175 (September 11, 2018)
  • Issue: Permanent Total Disability – Substantial Evidence, Insubstantial Income; Job Search – Substantial Evidence: Blomme v. Ind. Sch. Dist. No. 413., No. WC18-6169 (September 14, 2018)
  • Issue: Causation – Gillette Injury; Gillette Injury – Date of Injury; Notice of Injury – Substantial Evidence; Practice & Procedure – Statute of Limitations: Noga v. Minn. Vikings Football Club, No. WC18-6133 (September 19, 2018)
  • Issue: Arising Out Of & In The Course Of – Substantial Evidence: Rosar v. Southview Acres Health Care Ctr., No. WC18-6143 (September 21, 2018)
  • Issue: Arising Out Of & In The Course Of: Krull v. Divine House, Inc., No. WC18-6166 (September 27, 2018)
  • Issue: Temporary Total Disability; Causation – Substantial Evidence: Wright v. Viking Coca Cola Bottling Co., WC18-6168 (WCCA October 1, 2018)
  • Issue: Gillette Injury – Substantial Evidence; Notice of Injury – Substantial Evidence: Kronberger v. 3M Cos./Capital Safety, No WC18-6165 (WCCA October 11, 2018)
  • Issue: Evidence – Res Judicata; Practice & Procedure – Dismissal: Zabel v. Gustavus Adolphus College, No. WC18-6185 (WCCA October 12, 2018)
  • Issue: Temporary Total Disability; Job Offer – Refusal: Dodgson v. City of Minneapolis Public Works, No. WC18-6186 (W.C.C.A. October 31, 2018)
  • Issue: Causation – Substantial Evidence: Sanchez-Rivera v. Swift Pork Co., No. WC18-6182 (W.C.C.A. October 31, 2018)

WCCA Case Summaries July & August 2018

WCCA case summaries for July and August 2018, made possible by the Associates of CWK, are available on the CWK website.  Click HERE for the full case summaries.

  • Issue: Evidence – Expert Medical Opinion:  Krumwiede v. GGNSC Slayton, No. WC18-6134 (July 10, 2018)
  • Issue: Evidence – Credibility; Evidence – Expert Medical Opinion:  Jungwirth v. YRC Int’l, Inc., No. WC18-6152 (July 13, 2018)
  • Issue: Evidence – Expert Medical Opinion:  Larson v. ISD 465, No. WC18-6132 (July 18, 2018)
  • Issue: Jurisdiction; Statutues Construed – MINN STAT 175A.01, SUBD. 5; Vacation of Award:  Johnson v. Univ. Good Samaritan, No. WC18-6171 (W.C.C.A. July 23, 2018)
  • Issue: Evidence – Res Judicata:  Johnson v. A Touch of Class Painting, Inc., No. WC18-6170 (W.C.C.A. July 23, 2018)
  • Issue: Vacation of Award on Stipulation Due to Fraud, Mutual Mistake of Fact, or Newly Discovered Evidence:  Johnson v. Skil-Tech, Inc., WC18-6167 (WCCA July 23, 2018)
  • Issue: Substantial Evidence:  Flicek v. Lincoln Electric Co., No WC18-6139 (WCCA July 24, 2018)
  • Issue: Vacation of Award on Stipulation Due to Substantial Change in Condition:  Gelhar v. Universal Hospital Services, No. WC18-6157 (WCCA August 7, 2018)
  • Issue: Rules Construed – MINN R. 1420.3700 (Filing of Stipulation for Settlement):  Plung v. Tag Aviation, No. WC18-6159 (W.C.C.A. August 14, 2018)
  • Issue: Substantial Evidence, Wages – Multiple Employers Evidence – Res Judicata:  Aguirre v. St. Croix Hospice and Walker Methodist Health Center, No. WC18-6136 (W.C.C.A. August 14, 2018)
  • Issue: Temporary Total Disability – Job Search:  Schmidt v. Crow Wing, No. WC18-6145 (W.C.C.A. August 15, 2018)
  • Issue: Arising Out Of & In The Course Of:  Forrest v. Children’s Health Care, No. WC18-6140 (W.C.C.A. Aug. 16, 2018)
  • Issue: Mental Injury – Substantial Evidence:  Daniel Kopischke v. Food Serv. Of Am., No. WC18-6155 (Aug. 20, 2018)
  • Issue: Arising Out Of & In The Course Of: Daniel James v. Duluth Clinic, No. WC18-6128 (W.C.C.A. Aug. 21, 2018):