State News : Minnesota

NWCDN is a network of law firms dedicated to protecting employers in workers’ compensation claims.


NWCDN Members regularly post articles and summary judgements in workers’ compensations law in your state.  


Select a state from the dropdown menu below to scroll through the state specific archives for updates and opinions on various workers’ compensation laws in your state.


Contact information for NWCDN members is also located on the state specific links in the event you have additional questions or your company is seeking a workers’ compensation lawyer in your state.


Minnesota

Heacox Hartman

  651-222-2066

Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Case Law Update and

Annual Rate Changes


NEW RATES EFFECTIVE 10/01/2022

Maximum Compensation Rate:  Injuries which occur on or after 10/01/2022 will have a new maximum compensation rate of $1,312.74.

Minimum Compensation Rate:  Injuries which occur on or after 10/01/2022 will have a new minimum compensation rate of $262.55 or the average weekly wage, whichever is lower.

Statewide Average Weekly Wage: The SAWW as of 10/01/2022 will be $1,287.00, which yields a minimum compensation rate of $836.55 for employees who are permanently and totally disabled.

.645 Adjustment:  The annual adjustment to the compensation rate for the upcoming year will be 4.46%.

Supplementary Benefits Rate:  As of 10/01/2022, the supplementary benefits rate is $837.00.

A complete list of rate changes that take effect on 10/01/2022 can be found here:

https://www.dli.mn.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/annladj.pdf

 

MINNESOTA CASE LAW UPDATE: December 2021 to September 2022

OCCUPATIONAL DISEASE – WORKPLACE EXPOSURE AND MEDICAL BENEFITS OF SETTLEMENT – PIERRINGER RELEASE

 

Sershen vs. Met Council (Minn. May 11, 2022)


Factual Background:

 v Counsel appealed the Compensation Judge’s and the Worker's Compensation Court of Appeal's decisions holding that the employee sustained an occupational disease of hearing loss. Further, counsel argued that the Compensation Judge and the W.C.C.A. improperly found the Employer and Insurer liable for medical benefits and erred by failing to consider the liability of the prior employers who settled with the employee pursuant to a Pierringer release.

 

Holding:

 v The Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded to the Compensation Judge.

 

v The Supreme Court held that the employee established a workplace exposure to a hazard causing an occupational disease and that, consistent with Minn. Stat. § 176.135, subdivision 5 (2020), it was not an error to order payment of medical benefits by the employer where the employee was last exposed.

 

v The Supreme Court also held that the compensation Judge erred by concluding that all issues, other than medical benefits, were moot by not determining whether the last exposure employer has a right to reimbursement against the last significant exposure employer under Minn. Stat. § 176.135, subdivision 5, and Minn. Stat. § 176.66, subdivision 10 (2020).

 

v The Supreme Court remanded the matter to the Compensation Judge for determining whether the council was entitled to reimbursement and how that reimbursement is to be made consistent with the Pierringer principles.

 

POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER – PERSONAL INJURY STATUTE CONSTRUED

CHRC vs. Mower County (W.C.C.A May 9, 2022)

 

Factual background:

 v The employee began working for Mower County as a deputy sheriff in 2007. He was then diagnosed with PTSD, moderate to severe alcohol use disorder, and major depression in April 2019.

 

v The employee was recommended various forms of treatment for his PTSD and addiction.

 

v The employee's condition worsened, and effective March 31, 2020, the employee received duty-related disability benefits from the County, which included monthly income and ongoing health insurance, and he retired from his position.

 

v He filed a Claim Petition in May 2020 alleging entitlement to various benefits including wage loss benefits beginning April 1, 2020. Dr. Arbisi examined the employee upon the employer's request, and he determined that the employee did not meet the criteria for PTSD under the DSM-V, and that the employee had an unspecified adjustment disorder and alcohol use disorder related to his pending criminal charges. He also later testified that the employee did not follow the standard treatment protocol for PTSD, and instead relied on medication.

 

v The employee's treating psychiatrist and Dr. Slavik concluded that the employee had chronic PTSD caused by his employment activities as a deputy sheriff which were not resolved.

 

v Following a hearing, the Judge concluded that the employee had sustained work-related PTSD on April 3, 2019, and awarded wage loss benefits from April 1, 2020 to the present and continuing, though noted the employee had reached MMI and service of MMI occurred on May 18, 2021. The Judge also awarded 20% PPD as determined in Dr. Slavik's report. The employer appealed.

 

Holdings:

 v In a 2-1 decision, the W.C.C.A reversed the award of PPD, vocational benefits, and medical expenses for treatment after March 30, 2021, and modified the award of TTD benefits to allow TTD only to March 30, 2021.

 

v The W.C.C.A determined the employee had sufficiently recovered from his PTSD diagnosis to the point where he no longer met the criteria for PTSD under the DSM-V. Because an employer's liability for workers compensation benefits under Chapter 176 ends when an employee is no longer disabled, and the employee was no longer disabled by PTSD as of March 30, 2021, he was not entitled to workers compensation benefits after that date.

 

v The dissent contended that the majority's opinion resulted from a “narrow interpretation" of the PTSD statute and that the holding was “problematic and unworkable."


TERMINATION OF EMPLOYMENT - VOLUNTARY TERMINATION

TEMPORARY TOTAL DISABILITY - JOB SEARCH

 

Berglund v. Wildrose Health Care, LLC (W.C.C.A. January 7, 2022)

Factual Background:

v The employee appealed the compensation Judge’s determination that she voluntarily resigned from her employment and the denial of her claim for reinstatement of benefits. The employee sustained an admitted injury with the employer for which benefits were paid. The employee was released to work on a part-time, light-duty basis and the employee returned to work. The employer and insurer filed a notice of intention to discontinue temporary total disability (TTD) benefits and indicated temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits would be paid.

 

  The employee was upset by the discontinuance and advised the employer she would not be working her scheduled shifts that weekend. She then did not show for a meeting to discuss her concerns with her supervisor. Her supervisor considered the employee’s failure to work her scheduled shifts and attend the scheduled meeting along with her statements that she was “done with Wildrose” to be a voluntary resignation and provided the employee with a letter accepting her resignation. At a hearing on an objection to discontinuance, the compensation Judge found the employee voluntarily resigned from her employment and had not made a diligent search for other employment.

Holding:

v The W.C.C.A. affirmed the compensation Judge’s decision, indicating that the findings appealed by the employee were factual determinations made by the compensation Judge after considering the evidence and arguments of the parties. The W.C.C.A. concluded that substantial evidence existed to support the compensation Judge’s factual determinations. The Court found no evidence on the record that the employee searched for another job. She did work with a QRC, but testified that she had little discussion with her QRC about returning to work. In addition, the last stated rehabilitation goal was returning the employee to work with the date-of-injury employer.

 

JURISDICTION - SUBJECT MATTER

MEDICAL TREATMENT & EXPENSE


Warhol v. Corexpo, Inc. (W.C.C.A. December 7, 2021

v The W.C.C.A. previously decided this case on April 28, 2021, and affirmed the award of benefits for medical marijuana. The Supreme Court reversed the W.C.C.A.’s decision as it regards to the award of benefits for medical marijuana based on its decision in Musta v. Mendota Heights Dental Ctr. 965 N.W.2d 312 (Minn. 2021) (holding that the Controlled Substances Act preempts requirements under Minnesota Workers’ Compensation that obligate and employer to reimburse an injured employee for medical treatment when that treatment is an award for medical cannabis).

Shareholder Adam Brown, who also serves as our Director of Professional Development, was invited to speak on a panel for the MSBA's New Lawyers Section on March 29. The program was called Preparing for the Interview Process from an Employer's Perspective.

The National Workers' Compensation Defense Network will hold its spring conference in Philadelphia on April 27 and 28. Please click here for more details about the event. If you are able to attend, please connect with Tom Kieselbach, who will be there in his capacity as Immediate Past President of the NWCDN.

Save the date for the 2022 NWCDN Annual Conference, which will be held in Nashville on August 3 and 4.

NWCDN is a national network of the top workers' compensation firms across the country and Canada. CWK is the sole member firm from Minnesota, and CWK has a strong presence in the organization, with Tom Kieselbach serving as Immediate Past President, Parker Olson serving as Midwest Regional Vice-Chair, and Adam Brown serving on the Inclusion and Diversity Committee.

Please click here for summaries of Minnesota workers' compensation cases from February 2022. Issues include Petitions to Vacate Stipulations because of changes in medical conditions, judicial discretion in cases involving choice of medical experts, and cases involving witness credibility.

February 2022 summaries by Eric Behr.

Shareholder Whitney Teel has been asked to speak at this year's Minnesota Workers' Compensation Symposium, which will take place on Thursday, May 12, 2022. Please click here for the Symposium's webpage and registration information.

Whitney will present at 11:10 a.m. during Breakout Session 2B. She will be addressing vocational rehabilitation benefits in a session entitled Vocational Rehabilitation Bootcamp - Managing Services and Expenses.

CWK will once again be an exhibitor at the Symposium, and we hope you will stop by our booth to say hello. Please make sure to sign up for Breakout Session 2B for a great presentation from Whitney!

CWK's popular Annual Seminar will be back in person this year! The seminar will be held on Friday, September 30, 2022 at the Hilton Minneapolis/Bloomington.

More details will follow over the next few months, but please save the date now. We hope to see you, live and in person, in September!

On Thursday, February 3, 2022, Governor Walz signed a bill into law that extended the workers’ compensation presumption for certain frontline professions through 2022. The prior law addressing this presumption expired on December 31, 2021. As of now, the new law is not retroactive to January 2022, but there may be legislation that addresses this question later this year.

This law extends the presumption that has been in place for much of the pandemic. By way of reminder, this presumption indicates that employees working in first responder or healthcare occupations will be presumed eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they either test positive for COVID-19 or are diagnosed by a licensed physician, physician’s assistant, or APRN without a test. In situations where a test has not been done, a copy of written documentation of the diagnosis shall be provided to the Employer and Insurer. The following occupations fall into this presumption:

  • Firefighter

  • Paramedic

  • Nurses or Healthcare Workers

  • Correctional Officer/Security Counselor at Minnesota Correctional Facilities

  • Emergency Medical Technician

  • Healthcare provider, nurse, or assistant employed with home care or long-term setting

  • Workers required to provide childcare to first responders and health care workers under certain Executive Orders

In summary, if an employee shows that he or she works within one of these occupations and either tests positive for or is diagnosed with COVID-19, the burden of proof will shift to the Employer and Insurer to rebut the presumption. Employers and Insurers will still be able to show that the employment was not a direct cause of the disease, but it will be much more difficult to prevail on a denial of liability when one of these types of employees contract COVID-19. To note, the date of injury in these situations shall be the date the employee is no longer able to work due to a diagnosis of COVID-19 or due to the symptoms later diagnosed as COVID-19, whichever occurs first.

This Legislative Update was prepared by Parker Olson.

In October 2021, the Minnesota Supreme Court handed down a groundbreaking decision after its review of the Bierbach v. Digger's Polaris and Musta v. Mendota Heights Dental Center workers' compensation cases. Click Here for a full analysis of those cases. In summary, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Courts, including the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA), lack jurisdiction to decide whether federal law preempts Minnesota law requiring an employer or insurer to reimburse an employee for medical treatment in the form of medical cannabis. The Minnesota Supreme Court also held that the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act is preempted by the Federal Controlled Substance Act (CSA). As such, Minnesota Employers and Insurers are not required to reimburse employees for medical cannabis used to treat a work injury.

 

The Supreme Court of the United States is now reviewing the decision of the Minnesota Supreme Court to provide guidance to lower courts and states around the country regarding compensability of medical cannabis. Click the following links for the SCOTUS dockets in Musta v. Mendota Heights Dental and Bierbach v. Digger’s Polaris. In addition to legal briefs and arguments submitted by the parties, the U.S. Supreme Court has now invited the Biden Administration to submit a brief regarding the issues. This news certainly signals that this case could become a landmark decision.

Employers, Insurers, and courts in every state have been faced with very difficult questions as to the application of state cannabis laws that contradict the federal prohibition. Given this pending United States Supreme Court case, workers’ compensation professionals around the country will likely receive some guidance as to whether there is a legal requirement to reimburse employees for medical cannabis used to treat a work-related injury and whether the federal Controlled Substances Act preempts contradictory state laws.

For now, the state of the law in Minnesota remains unchanged, and Employers and Insurers are not required to reimburse employees for medical cannabis used to treat a work injury in Minnesota. We will continue to monitor the filings at the United States Supreme Court closely, so please feel free to reach out with any questions.

Summary by Parker T. Olson 

On Friday, February 4, 2022, Minnesota Governor Walz signed a bill into law that extended the workers’ compensation presumption for certain frontline professions through 2022. The prior law addressing this presumption expired on December 31, 2021. As of now, the new law is not retroactive to January 2022, but there may be legislation that addresses this later this year.

This law extends the presumption that has been in place for much of the pandemic. By way of reminder, this presumption indicates that employees working in first responder or healthcare occupations will be presumed eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they either test positive for COVID-19 or are diagnosed by a licensed physician, physician’s assistant, or APRN without a test. In situations where a test has not been done, a copy of written documentation of the diagnosis shall be provided to the Employer and Insurer. The following occupations fall into this presumption:

·    Firefighter

·    Paramedic

·    Nurses or Healthcare Worker

·    Correctional Officer/Security Counselor at Minnesota Correctional Facilities

·    Emergency Medical Technician

·    Healthcare provider, nurse, or assistant employed with home care or long-term setting

·    Workers required to provide childcare to first responders and health care workers under certain Executive Orders

In summary, if an employee shows that he or she works within one of these occupations and either tests positive for or is diagnosed with COVID-19, the burden of proof will shift to the Employer and Insurer to rebut the presumption. Employers and Insurers will still be able to show that the employment was not a direct cause of the disease, but it will be much more difficult to prevail on a denial of liability when one of these types of employees contract COVID-19. To note, the date of injury in these situations shall be the date the employee is no longer able to work due to a diagnosis of COVID-19 or due to the symptoms later diagnosed as COVID-19, whichever occurs first.

Please contact CWK Attorney Parker Olson at (952) 525-6930 or parker.olson@cwk-law.com with any questions. 

 

Thomas Coleman recently secured a favorable decision at the Office of Administrative Hearings in a case involving multiple claimed work injuries.

The first injury was alleged to have resulted from an accident involving a motor vehicle and a train, wherein the employee claimed to have suffered significant and permanent injuries to the cervical spine, bilateral shoulders, and back. He subsequently underwent cervical fusion surgery. The second injury involved a claim for PTSD, which the employee allegedly sustained as a result of another accident.

The Compensation Judge at the Office of Administrative Hearings found that the first injury was a temporary aggravation, which resolved within six weeks, and he denied any claims after that time. This included a denial of significant amounts of indemnity benefits and medical benefits, including the cervical fusion surgery. With respect to the PTSD claim, the Compensation Judge denied primary liability for the claim in its entirety.

This was an outstanding result in a case involving significant exposure and a possible permanent total disability claim.