June 2019 WCCA Decisions

June 2019 WCCA Decisions

 

John Devos v. Rhino Contracting, No. WC18-6240 (W.C.C.A. June 12, 2019)

 

Jurisdiction. Minn. Stat. § 176.041, subd. 5(b).

 

The Employee lived in Minnesota for most of his life. On April 7, 2011, while in Grand Forks, North Dakota, he applied for and was offered a seasonal job as a laborer for the Employer. The Employer was a North Dakota Business. During the 2011 season, the Employee worked for the Employer in both North Dakota and Minnesota. He worked more than 240 hours in Minnesota. He was laid off at the end of the season (December) and thereafter applied for North Dakota unemployment benefits. He hoped to return to the Employer for the 2012 season and did not look for work from December 2011 to March 2012.

 

In March of 2012, he was called by an owner of the Employer and asked to return for the 2012 season. He did not complete an application or undergo another interview. In 2012, the Employee worked mostly in North Dakota, and less than 240 hours in Minnesota. In September 2012, he suffered a work-related injury to his femoral artery. During his recovery, he received workers’ compensation benefits through North Dakota’s Workforce Safety and Insurance (ND WSI). He did not return to work with the Employer.

 

When ND WSI discontinued benefits in 2014, the Employee sought benefits under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act, naming the Special Compensation Fund as Insurer. The Fund argued the Employee was not entitled to benefits under Minn. Stat. § 176.041, subd. 5b. because he was hired in North Dakota by a North Dakota Employer and his alleged injury arose only out of temporary work in Minnesota.

 

Minn. Stat. § 176.041 Subd. 5b. reads: “… compensation benefits for an employee hired in North Dakota by a North Dakota employer, arising out of that employee’s temporary work in Minnesota, shall not be payable under this chapter. North Dakota workers’ compensation law provides the exclusive remedy available to the injured worker. For purposes of this subdivision, temporary work means work in Minnesota for a period of time not to exceed 15 consecutive calendar days or a maximum of 240 total hours worked by that employee in a calendar year.”

 

The compensation judge dismissed the claim petition finding that the Employee’s exclusive remedy was under the workers’ compensation system in North Dakota pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 176.041, subd. 5(b). The Employee appealed.

 

Upon review, the W.C.C.A affirmed the dismissal. They agreed with the compensation judges’ determination that whether the Employee’s work in Minnesota was temporary was based on the hours he worked in the calendar year in which the injury occurred, and that under the statute, his work in Minnesota was temporary.

 

Summary by: Emily Johnson

 

 

 

 

Thomas Reel v. Loftness Specialized Farm Equipment, No. WC19-6257 (W.C.C.A. June 12, 2019)

 

Vacation of Award

 

The Employee petitioned the W.C.C.A to vacate a 2006 award on stipulation. He alleged a substantial change in his medical condition that was not anticipated and could not have been reasonably anticipated by the parties at the time of the award.

 

The Employee worked as a welder, operating and lifting heavy equipment. He had disc herniations, degenerative disc disease and stenosis at multiple levels of the cervical spine. He eventually had a fusion procedure which resulted in complications with the hardware. He subsequently underwent a revision fusion surgery. He was placed at maximum medical improvement by his surgeon in 2005 and given permanent “moderate” workability and a 23% permanency rating. The Employee continued to treat for ongoing symptoms in the neck and bilateral arms.

 

The 2006 Stipulation included the Employee’s allegation that he was permanently and totally disabled and payment to the Employee of $101,800.00. Medical benefits were left open.

 

Following the issuance of Award, the Employee treated for ongoing chronic neck pain with radiculopathy down the right arm. He required additional surgeries including removal of hardware from the cervical spine.

 

The W.C.C.A. note that while the Employee had substantial additional medical treatment since his 2006 settlement, and this treatment is causally related to his work injury, he failed to show any significant change in diagnosis, change in ability to work, additional PPD, or that the settlement did not contemplate his continued inability to resume employment. He had already received substantial TTD, TPD, and PPD before later receiving over $100,000.00 in his 2006 settlement. Moreover, the Employee left his medical benefits, the one benefit that certainly could have been reasonably anticipated to be needed into the future, open and has had the advantage of those benefits.

 

The W.C.C.A affirmed the compensation judge’s determination that evidence failed to support the employee’s claim of a substantial and unanticipated change in his medical condition.

 

Summary by: Emily Johnson

 

 

 

  

Mary Farrell v. St. Paul Café, No. WC19-6249 (W.C.C.A. June 4, 2019)

 

Rehabilitation

 

The Employee appealed from a compensation judge’s findings and order granting the Employer and Insurer’s request to change case managers. The Employee suffered an admitted work-related injury which resulted in her permanent and total disability. In 2016, a compensation judge signed an award on stipulation approving a settlement whereby the employee was declared PTD. A prior Stipulation for Settlement had closed out vocational rehabilitation and retraining.

 

However, the Employer and Insurer subsequently voluntarily began providing disability case management services. When the Employer and Insurer became dissatisfied with the services, they filed a rehabilitation request seeking to terminate the case manager. The compensation judge found that there was no workers’ compensation statute nor rule governing changes to voluntarily provided disability case management services and granted the Employer and Insurer’s request to change case managers.

 

The W.C.C.A. agreed that disability case management services, being non-statutory benefits, are outside the jurisdiction of workers’ compensation courts. Thus, because neither the Office of Administrative Hearings nor the W.C.C.A. have jurisdiction to rule on changes to disability case management services. Employers and Insurers providing such services may make changes to these services without filing either a medical or rehabilitation request or otherwise seeking approval from a workers’ compensation judge. Filing a rehabilitation request was unnecessary.

 

The W.C.C.A. vacated the findings and order of the compensation judge and dismissed the Employer and Insurer’s rehabilitation request.

 

Summary by: Emily Johnson