Minnesota Supreme Court Decision

Minnesota Supreme Court denies former Minnesota Vikings player’s claim for brain injuries based on statute of limitations. On July 31, 2019, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued its decision in Noga v. MN Vikings Football Club, A18-1685. In the case, Noga brought a claim for neurocognitive disorder, formerly known as dementia. Noga played defensive lineman, and was known for his head-first style of playing. In 2001, he filed a claim for benefits regarding his various orthopedic injuries. In a medical report completed by Dr. Fruean in February 2004, Noga’s orthopedic issues and neurological issues, including “blackout episodes from concussions from football injuries” and “headaches episodes, from football injuries” were noted. Noga’s 2001 orthopedic claim was settled, and the Award on Stipulation was filed in March 2004.

 

In 2015, Noga filed a Claim Petition for workers’ compensation benefits relating to his head trauma and brain injuries. Liability was denied. At the Hearing, the compensation judge found that Noga sustained a Gillette injury of “head trauma, brain injury, and/or dementia” that culminated on or about December 1, 1992 and that the injury was a substantial contributing factor to Noga’s permanent and total disability.

 

On appeal, the WCCA remanded several issues to the compensation judge, who again decided that Noga sustained a Gillette injury to the head which culminated on December 1, 1992, and that Noga should have known the nature, seriousness, and probable compensable nature of his injury in 2004. Because of this finding, it was clear that more than six years had passed from the date he knew of the injury to the date the Claim Petition was filed in 2015. Nevertheless, the judge concluded that the statute of limitations was satisfied under Minn. Stat. 176.151 because the Vikings provided Noga with medical care for his head injuries, which constituted a “proceeding” to toll the statute of limitations.

 

The matter went up to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which reversed the WCCA, holding that the Minnesota Vikings’ providing medical treatment for Noga’s head injuries did not constitute a proceeding, so therefore the claim was barred under the statute of limitations. Employees have six years after a date of injury to bring a workers’ compensation claim if no First Report of Injury is filed. One exception is if the injury is admitted, or a “proceeding” occurs to toll the statute of limitations. In this case, the Supreme Court found that providing medical care did not meet the criteria of a proceeding, and therefore Noga’s claim was barred under the statute of limitations.

 

The full opinion can be found here: https://mn.gov/law-library-stat/archive/supct/2019/OPA181685-073119.pdf

 

 

Summary by Parker T. Olson