Legal Updates

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):

WCCA Case Summaries June 2018

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

 

  • Ernesto Herradora-Briones v. Building Resources Corp., No. WC17-6121 (W.C.C.A. July 2, 2018)
  • Jason Ebensteiner v. Klaphake Feed Mill and Westfield Grp., No. WC18-6131 (W.C.C.A. June 29, 2018)
  • Kristine Markham v. Minn. Dep’t of Resources, No. WC18-6130 (W.C.C.A. June 22, 2018)
  • Wayne Gerhardt v. Enzymology Research Ctr., Inc., No. WC18-6127 (W.C.C.A. June 19, 2018)
  • Kurt Caswell v. N. Country Sheet Metal, LLC, No. WC18-6148 (W.C.C.A. June 18, 2018)
  • William Johnson v. Darchuks Fabrication, Inc., No. WC17-6114 (W.C.C.A. June 13, 2018)

Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) Summaries: October 2017 thru January 2018

Summaries of WCCA Decisions from October 2017 thru January 2018 are posted in the Legal Updates section of our website.  Click HERE for access to the decision updates provided by our attorneys; Parker Olson, Scott Ferriss, Bryan Wachter, and Megan Oliver . In our effort to provide you with key up to date information on Minnesota Workers’ Compensation law and cases, we hope that you will find this to be helpful.

 

Contact Tom Kieselbach with your feedback and requests.

 

New Minnesota Supreme Court Decision: Julie D. Halvorson v. B&F Fastener Supply, A16-0920 (Minn, September 20, 2017)

Julie D. Halvorson v. B&F Fastener Supply, A16-0920 (Minn, September 20, 2017)

The Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed a decision by the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) and held that an employer may only terminate an employee’s rehabilitation benefits where “good cause” is shown.

 

The facts of the case were undisputed.  Julie Halvorson (“Employee”) sustained a work-related injury to her right elbow and both knees working for B&F Fastener Supply.  A compensation judge awarded workers’ compensation benefits including rehabilitation services, which B&F and their workers’ compensation insurance carrier paid.  The Employee eventually found a part-time job with another employer, after which B&F filed a request with the Workers’ Compensation Division of the Department of Labor and Industry to terminate rehabilitation services.  The request stated that the Employee was no longer a “qualified employee” entitled to rehabilitation benefits as she had found “suitable gainful employment.”  The request was denied and a formal hearing before a compensation judge was requested.  The compensation judge granted the request to terminate rehabilitation benefits, noting that the Employee was no longer a “qualified employee” due to her part-time employment.

 

The Employee appealed to the WCCA, who reversed, but declined to specifically determine whether Employee had “suitable gainful employment” or if she continued to be a “qualified employee.”  Instead, the WCCA held that “every request to terminate rehabilitation services is subject to the ‘good cause’ standard in Minn. Stat § 176.102, subd. 8(a), and Minn. R. 5220.0510, subp.5.” Halvorson v. B&F Fastener Supply, No. WC15-5869, 2016 WL 321720 (Minn. WCCA May 9, 2016).  Due to the fact that the compensation judge improperly relied on the definitions in Minn. R. 5220.0100, subps. 22, 34, and B&F electing not to have their request to terminate rehabilitation benefits evaluated using the “good cause” standard, the WCCA determined that B&F had wrongfully terminated the Employee’s rehabilitation benefits.  The Employer and Insurer appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

 

The Supreme Court affirmed the WCCA’s decision, holding that Minn. Stat. § 176.102, subd. 8(a) specifically requires “a showing of good cause” in addition to filing the request to suspend, terminate, or alter rehabilitation benefits.  There are five enumerated reasons considered “good cause” in the statute: (1) physical injury that prevents the employee from pursuing the rehabilitation plan; (2) employee’s performance indicates the rehabilitation plan will not be completed successfully; (3) the employee does not cooperate with the rehabilitation plan; (4) the plan or its administration is substantially inadequate to achieve the objectives of the plan; (5) the employee is unlikely to benefit from additional rehabilitation.  However, the Court also stated that these five reasons are not an exclusive list of ways to show “good cause”.

 

Going forward, this means that when an employer, insurer, employee, or the Commissioner of Labor and Industry request to suspend, terminate, or alter rehabilitation benefits, a showing of “good cause” must be included in the request.

 

The case is Julie D. Halvorson v. B&F Fastener Supply, A16-0920 which can be found Here.

The case review was completed by Scott G. Ferriss.

New Minnesota Supreme Court Decision: EVIDENCE AND EXPERTS – Mattick v. Hy-Vee Foods Stores (A16-1802, Minn. July 12, 2017)

The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed a decision by the WCCA, and held that the WCCA erred when it found that an expert opinion lacked adequate foundation.

 

In this case, Debra Mattick (“Employee”) sustained a non-work-related injury to her right ankle in 2000. She underwent two surgeries, and eventually was able to engage in recreational activities including sand volleyball and biking. She was diagnosed with post-traumatic arthritis, and had periodic pain. She returned to work as a cake decorator at Hy-Vee in 2001, working 40-45 hours per week. In 2004, the Employee tripped over a pallet while working at Hy-Vee and twisted her right ankle. She filed a workers’ compensation claim seeking reimbursement for an ankle-fusion surgery. At the Hearing, the compensation judge denied the Employee’s claim for surgery and found that the injury was temporary and had fully resolved. The judge relied on the expert opinion of Dr. Fey and concluded that neither the Employee’s medical records nor the opinions of her treating physicians supported her claim.

 

The case was appealed to the WCCA, which reversed the compensation judge’s decision and concluded that Dr. Fey’s report lacked adequate factual foundation. The WCCA found that Dr. Fey’s report was suspect, including his discussion of the Employee’s arthritis condition and ankle sprain, and well as his failure to note a 10-year gap in the Employee’s symptoms. Due to this, they found the report to be lacking in adequate foundation.

 

The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed the WCCA’s decision and reinstated the findings of the compensation judge. The Supreme Court noted that an expert opinion lacks foundation when (1) the opinion does not include the facts and/or data upon which the expert relied in forming the opinion, (2) it does not explain the basis for the opinion, or (3) the facts assumed by the expert in rendering an opinion are not supported by the evidence. Hudson v. Trillium Staffing, 2017 WL 2458132 (Minn. June 7, 2017). The Supreme Court, however, analyzed Dr. Fey’s report based on these factors and found that the report clearly recounted and analyzed the specifics of the Employee’s injuries before opining on the potential aggravation of her arthritis in her ankle, and it was adequately supported by factual foundation. A few statements in the report taken out of context is not enough to discredit the entire report. In conclusion, the Supreme Court found that the WCCA erred, and that the compensation judge properly relied on Dr. Fey’s report.

 

As the takeaway, the Minnesota Supreme Court reiterated the WCCA’s appellate standard of review under Hengemuhle for the past three decades: the WCCA exceeds its scope of review when it rejects a Compensation Judge’s findings that are supported by substantial evidence and substitutes its own findings.

 

The case is Mattick v. Hy-Vee Foods Stores, A16-1802 and can be found HERE.

New Minnesota Supreme Court Decision: IMMIGRATION CASE – Anibal Sanchez vs. Dahlke Trailer Sales, Inc. A15-1183 (Minn. June 28, 2017)

This is an employment law case which involves the workers’ compensation anti-retaliation statue, Minn. Stat. 176.82. The underlying facts of this case concern an employee who came to the United States on a tourist visa, but continued to live in the United States without documentation after the visa expired. He bought a social security number to apply for jobs, and this social security number was provided to the employer when he was hired in 2005. The employee alleged his managers were aware that he was no legally authorized to work in the United States.

 

He was injured in 2013 while operating a sandblaster. He missed work and incurred medical expenses. A claim petition was filed, and the workers’ compensation claim had settled. In any event, in his deposition, he testified he was not legally authorized to work in the United States. After his deposition, he was asked about his legal status by his employer, and he was told he could not work for the employer any longer due to his legal status. He was then presented with a letter – which he signed – indicating that he had voluntarily told his employer that his social security documentation was not legitimate and that he was not authorized to work in the United States, and thus, he was sent home on unpaid leave. He could return to work once he provided legitimate paperwork evidencing he could legally work in the United States.

 

Procedurally, the employee sued the employer under Minn. Stat. 176.82 for retaliatory discharge. The district court granted summary judgment to the employer concluding there was no issue raised of material fact about whether the employee was discharged due seeking workers’ compensation benefits. The Court of Appeal reversed, and the Supreme Court affirmed.

 

Minn. Stat. 176.82 only applies in cases of discharge, threatened discharge, and intentional obstruction of benefits. Thus, there was a question on whether the employee’s “leave” constituted discharge. The Court held that the actual intent of the employer was key in determining whether discharge occurred, and where the employee is placed on “temporary” leave, but the intent is for the leave to not end, then said “leave” amounts to discharge. If the motivation was retaliatory, then it implies there was intent for the leave to be permanent. This was determined to be an issue of factual dispute, which was to be resolved by a factfinder.

 

In addition, the Court held there was an issue of genuine material fact regarding whether the employee was discharged for seeking workers’ compensation benefits, another element of Minn. Stat. 176.82. The Court noted that the employee asserted the employer knew about his immigration status for years prior to the workers’ compensation injury.

 

Finally, the Court held the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) did not preempt an undocumented worker’s claim under 176.82. The Court indicated employer could have complied with IRCA and 176.82, if the employee had been discharged due to immigration status.

 

Impact: This is a procedural employment law opinion; however, the impact on workers’ compensation is that an employee can bring a 176.82 retaliatory discharge claim even if the employee is placed on “leave” when it is the employer’s intent is for the employee not to return to work. In addition, complying with IRCA will not be a defense to a 176.82 claim when the discharge is retaliatory for bringing a workers’ compensation claim. Simply put, where an employer knows that the employee is undocumented prior to the workers’ compensation claim, and discharges the employee after the workers’ compensation claim on the basis of the employee being undocumented, they expose themselves to a 176.82 claim.

 

The full decision can be found HERE

New Minnesota Supreme Court Decision: STANDARD OF REVIEW – Kristel Kubis v. Community Memorial Hospital Association, A16-0361 (Minn. June 28, 2017)

STANDARD OF REVIEW – Kristel Kubis v. Community Memorial Hospital Association, A16-0361 (Minn. June 28, 2017)

 

In this case, Kubis (“Employee”) sustained an injury at work while rushing up a staircase at Community Memorial Hospital (“Employer”). The matter proceeded to a Hearing. The issue before the compensation judge was whether her injury arose out of and in the course of her employment. During the Hearing, the Employee testified that she needed to go up to the second floor to complete a report and clock out. In conflicting pieces of testimony, she stated that she rushed up the stairs because she was “afraid of the overtime” and “wanted to report off to the next crew.” In the weeks leading up to her fall on the staircase, there was some discussion by her Employer regarding limiting “unnecessary overtime” for all employees. However, this Employee had been authorized to work overtime to complete her documentation in the past. Additionally, she had worked overtime in 10 of the 13 pay periods preceding her fall. There was nothing hazardous about the staircase itself according to an expert report submitted by the Employer and Insurer. The compensation judge dismissed the Employee’s claim and found that she failed to establish that her injury was caused by an increased risk that arose out of her employment. Most importantly, the compensation judge found that her “claim that she was rushing up the stairs because she felt pressured to do so because of the hospital’s policy encouraging employee’s [sic] to log out on a timely basis at the end of their shifts is not credible.”

 

The matter was appealed to the WCCA, and it reversed the compensation judge’s decision. The WCCA reasoned that the Employee’s split motivation of prompt report to the oncoming shift established an increased risk that arose out of her employment. The case was appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

 

The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed the WCCA’s decision and reinstated the ruling by the compensation judge. The Court held that the WCCA failed to adhere to the appropriate standard of review, which is found in Hengemuhle. The WCCA cannot substitute its view of the evidence as long as the compensation judge’s findings are supported by substantial evidence. Ultimately, the Court held that the WCCA substituted its own credibility determination of the Employee in this matter and decided that the compensation judge was incorrect. This is improper under the Hengemuhle standard of review.

 

Notably, this case was a 4-3 decision. The Minnesota Supreme Court did not analyze the increased risk test, as the case was solely decided by the standard of review issue described above. However, the dissent notes that Minnesota should consider adopting the “positional-risk test” instead of the increased risk test. This may be an interesting development in the future should the Minnesota Supreme Court decide to hear this issue.

 

The full decision can be found HERE

New Minnesota Supreme Court Decision: ARISING OUT OF AND IN THE COURSE OF – Josephine M. Hohlt v. University of Minnesota, A16-0349 (Minn. June 28, 2017)

Josephine Holt (“Employee”) slipped and fell on an icy sidewalk, breaking her hip. She was a painter employed by the University of Minnesota (“Employer”) and after finishing her shift and “punching out”, she began walking the four blocks to her car. She had parked in an Employer owned ramp because it was one of the cheaper places to park. She had not been instructed on where to park. It was snowing and sleeting that day and despite the Employee’s attempt to walk carefully, when she began to cross the street across from the parking ramp, she slipped on the sidewalk’s curb ramp and fell. Per a City ordinance, it is the responsibility of the Employer to maintain the relevant sidewalk and keep it clear of snow and ice.

 

The matter went to hearing before a compensation judge. The issues disputed at hearing were whether the injury arose out of and in the course on the employment. The compensation judge held the injury did not arise out of the employment because the hazard the Employee faced (an icy sidewalk) was no different than that faced by the general public. The decision was appealed.

 

The WCCA reversed, holding the injury did arise out of the employment because the Employee was on the Employer’s premises when she was injured and was “walking a short distance on the most direct route to a parking ramp owned and operated by her employer.” The WCCA noted that the Employee was on the premises because of her employment and not because she was a member of the general public. The Employer appealed. arguing the WCCA had misapplied Dykhoff’s distinct “arising out of” and “in the course of” tests.

 

The Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed the WCCA’s decision, finding the injury compensable. The Court noted that there were no relevant facts in dispute, and therefore reviewed the case de novo. The Court analyzed the facts under the two-part test established in Dykhoff, reiterating that both the “in the course of” and “arising out of” tests must be applied separately and both must be satisfied for an injury to be compensable.

 

In order for the “arising out of” part test to be satisfied, there must be some casual connection, A causal connection can be established by showing an increased risk. The Court held the WCCA correctly concluded there was a causal connection between the injury and the employment because the Employee was exposed to the hazard of the icy sidewalk because of her employment. The Court stated, “…the test is not whether the general public was also exposed to the risk, but whether the employee was exposed to the risk because of employment.” When an employee is exposed to a hazard on the employer’s premises that creates an increased risk, the “arising out of” prong of the test is satisfied.

 

An employee is “in the course of” employment both when he or she is providing service to the employer and for a reasonable period of time beyond working hours when engaging in activities incidental to the employment. In this case, the Employee was walking four blocks directly from the building she was working in to where her car was parked. This walk was incidental to her employment and within a reasonable time after she completed her shift. When the incident occurred, she was traveling between Employer premises – the building she was working in and the parking ramp. Traveling between two Employer premises puts an Employee “in the course of’ employment. Additionally, she was walking on Employer maintained sidewalks.

 

There was a vigorous dissent from Justice Anderson who opined that neither the “arising out of” or “in the course of” tests were satisfied. Justice Anderson reasoned that there was no causal connection between the injury and the employment because the Employee was not exposed to any greater risk than the public and could just as easily have fallen at that same spot in pursuit of personal activities. She was not “in the course of” her employment because she had punched out, was not performing work duties and was walking on a public sidewalk to a parking location of her choosing.

 

The full decision can be found HERE