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Sundby v. City of St. Peter

March 17, 2005

TIMOTHY A. SUNDBY, RESPONDENT,
v.
CITY OF ST. PETER, SELF-INSURED, ADM'D BY BERKLEY RISK ADMINISTRATORS CO., RESPONDENTS, ROLCO, INC., AND STATE FUND MUTUAL INSURANCE CO., RESPONDENTS, AND SPECIAL COMPENSATION FUND, RELATOR.



Considered and decided by the court en banc without oral argument.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Social Security Disability Insurance child's benefits are to be included when calculating the amount of the reduction in an employer's workers' compensation benefits payments under Minn. Stat. § 176.101, subd. 4 (2004).

The Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals did not exceed its authority by examining the Social Security Act when it looked to the federal law for instruction in ascertaining whether Social Security Disability Insurance benefits may be included in the workers' compensation benefits offset calculation provided for in Minn. Stat. § 176.101, subd. 4.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anderson, Paul H., Justice.

Took no part, Anderson, G. Barry, J.

Affirmed.

OPINION

We review on certiorari a decision of the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) affirming a workers' compensation judge's determination that, under Minn. Stat. § 176.101, subd. 4 (2004), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) child's benefits are to be included when calculating the amount of reduction in an employer's payment of workers' compensation benefits. We conclude that SSDI child's benefits are includable in the calculation to reduce payments; therefore, we affirm.

The parties stipulated to the underlying facts. On December 31, 1986, Timothy Sundby sustained a lower back injury and a left foot fracture while employed by the City of Saint Peter as an apprentice lineman. As a result of the injuries, Sundby underwent multiple surgeries, including fusion of part of his spine. The City of Saint Peter accepted liability for the injury and paid medical expenses, wage-loss benefits, and economic recovery compensation.

On June 27, 1992, while employed as a maintenance person by Rolco, Inc., Sundby sustained further injury to his lower back, which required additional surgery. Rolco and its workers' compensation insurer, State Fund Mutual Insurance Company, accepted liability and paid workers' compensation benefits to Sundby. Following the 1992 injury, State Fund Mutual paid Sundby temporary total disability benefits and the City of Saint Peter continued to pay temporary partial disability benefits pursuant to Kirchner v. County of Anoka, 410 N.W.2d 825 (Minn. 1987).*fn1 As of November 9, 1993, Sundby had received a total of $25,000 in weekly disability benefits from State Fund Mutual and the City of Saint Peter, collectively.

In addition to workers' compensation benefits, Sundby also sought disability benefits under the Social Security Act. By Notice of Award dated July 12, 1999, Sundby was awarded SSDI benefits effective June 1, 1993. The initial amount of Sundby's SSDI benefits was $619.10 per month.

At the time of his injuries, Sundby was financially responsible for three children and, after his divorce, he had ongoing child support obligations for the children when they were not in his custody. Therefore, as a consequence of his disability, Sundby was awarded SSDI child's benefits for his children at a rate of 50 percent of his monthly SSDI benefit rate, or an initial monthly amount of $309.55. Effective December 1, 2002, Sundby received an SSDI monthly benefit of $807.70 and a child's benefit for his one remaining minor child in the amount of $403.80. As this child's benefit accrued, it was paid through Sundby into a direct deposit account in the minor child's name. Under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 424a(a)(5) (2000), Sundby's SSDI benefit and the child's SSDI benefit that Sundby received were subject to reduction because of Sundby's concurrent receipt of workers' compensation temporary total and temporary partial disability benefits.

Sundby subsequently sought permanent total disability and supplementary workers' compensation benefits, and the City of Saint Peter, Rolco, and State Fund Mutual sought reimbursement from the Special Compensation Fund (Fund) for any supplementary benefits that were due. The parties, all represented by counsel, negotiated a stipulation of settlement by which they agreed that (1) Sundby was permanently totally disabled as of October 21, 1992; (2) all weekly workers' compensation benefits previously paid were to be deemed permanent total disability benefits; and (3) these workers' compensation benefits could be reduced by the amount of any social security disability benefits. The parties agreed that the 208-week threshold for supplementary benefits was reached on December 31, 1990. The parties also agreed that, as a result of the reclassification, permanent total disability benefits in the amount of $25,000 had been paid as of November 9, 1993.

The reclassification of Sundby's weekly workers' compensation disability benefits from temporary to permanent benefits resulted in an overpayment of workers' compensation benefits and it was agreed that the overpayment should be taken out of Sundby's retroactive award of SSDI benefits. But the parties disputed whether the SSDI child's benefits were includable in the workers' compensation government benefits offset provision under Minn. Stat. ยง 176.101, subd. 4. They ultimately agreed to reserve this issue for a hearing. If the SSDI child's benefits are not included when determining the amount of Sundby's workers' compensation government benefits offset, the overpayment to ...


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