Hennepin County District Court File No. CT-03-006068.
Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge; Randall, Judge; and Schumacher, Judge.
1. Under the no-fault act, workers' compensation insurance is primary. But a denial of workers' compensation benefits does not preclude, through res judicata or collateral estoppel, the arbitration and recovery of no-fault benefits.
2. There is no authority that a no-fault insurer's coverage is conditioned on an opportunity to obtain reimbursement for benefits paid to the insured.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge
Appellant insurance company challenges the judgment entered on the district court's order denying its motion to vacate an arbitrator's award and affirming the award of no-fault benefits to respondent, who was injured in an automobile accident during the course of his employment.
This is a no-fault insurer's appeal from the district court's denial of the insurer's motion to vacate a no-fault arbitration award.
Respondent Cristian Klinefelter is the insured. He was injured in an accident while driving his own vehicle in the performance of work for his employer, Quicksilver Express Courier. Safeco Insurance Company was Quicksilver's workers' compensation insurer. Appellant Crum and Forster Insurance Company provided no-fault insurance for Klinefelter's vehicle.
Safeco paid workers' compensation benefits to Klinefelter for several months and then terminated benefits because Klinefelter changed physicians without prior consent from Safeco in contravention of a workers' compensation rule. Klinefelter then claimed no-fault benefits from Crum and Forster. The claim was arbitrated, and the arbitrator found in Klinefelter's favor. Crum and Forster paid the award.
About a year later, Klinefelter filed another claim for workers' compensation benefits with the workers' compensation division, and he also requested permission to change physicians. Crum and Forster intervened, seeking reimbursement for the no-fault benefits it had paid. For various reasons, the workers' compensation court denied Klinefelter's claim and request and denied Crum and Forster's petition for reimbursement. The workers' compensation court of appeals affirmed. Klinefelter v. Quicksilver Express Courier, 2003 WL 465509 (Minn. Workers' Comp. Ct. Apps. Jan. 6, 2003).
Klinefelter then petitioned for no-fault arbitration of medical expenses and wage losses. Crum and Forster opposed any award. The arbitrator awarded a total of $8,267.98 to Klinefelter, and Crum and Forster moved the district court to vacate the award, arguing that the arbitrator had exceeded his powers by making a legal determination and that the no-fault claim was barred by collateral estoppel or res ...