Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Johnson v. Princeton Public Utilities Commission

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

July 10, 2017

James M. Johnson, et al., Respondents,
v.
Princeton Public Utilities Commission, defendant and third party plaintiff, Appellant,
v.
Hydrocon, Inc., Third Party Defendant.

         Mille Lacs County District Court File No. 48-CV-11-2174

          Grim Daniel Howland, James E. Lindell, Lindell & Lavoie, LLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondents)

          John M. Baker, Katherine M. Swenson, Kathryn N. Hibbard, Greene Espel PLLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Susan L. Naughton, League of Minnesota Cities, St. Paul, Minnesota (for amicus curiae League of Minnesota Cities)

          Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Smith, Tracy M., Judge; and Randall, Judge.[*]

         SYLLABUS

         I. A public utilities commission created by a statutory city pursuant to Minn. Stat. §§ 412.321-.391 (2016) is a political subdivision of the state for purposes of Minn. Stat. § 549.09, subd. 1(c)(1)(i) (2016).

         II. When this court decides an issue and indicates in its opinion that it intends the decision to be final, a district court, on remand, may not reconsider that issue.

          OPINION

          PETERSON, Judge

         In this appeal following a remand by this court to the district court, appellant public utilities commission argues that the district court erred by (1) concluding that it is not a political subdivision of the state entitled to a lower preverdict interest rate under Minn. Stat. § 549.09, subd. 1(c)(1)(i); and (2) declining to grant a collateral-source offset for workers' compensation benefits paid to the injured respondent. We affirm the district court's collateral-source decision, but reverse the award of preverdict interest at the rate of ten percent per year and remand for a preverdict interest award at the statutory four-percent rate that applies to a judgment or award against a political subdivision of the state.

         FACTS

         While employed by Hydrocon, Inc., a sewer-and-water contractor, respondent James Johnson was working on a water main for an ice arena in the City of Princeton. An employee of appellant Princeton Public Utilities Commission (PUC) agreed to secure a utility pole located near where Johnson was operating a compacting machine. Johnson told the PUC employee that he had finished compacting the soil, and the PUC employee released the utility pole from the truck that secured it. The pole fell on Johnson's machine, which caused injuries to Johnson's neck and back.

         Johnson received workers' compensation benefits from Hydrocon and settled his workers' compensation claims in February 2011. Hydrocon assigned its indemnity and subrogation rights to PUC in a reverse-Naig settlement.[1] Johnson and his wife, respondent Sherri Johnson, sued PUC for negligence in September 2011.

         After a trial, the jury returned a special verdict on October 22, 2013, finding that PUC was negligent and its negligence was a direct cause of harm to Johnson. The jury also found that Johnson was negligent but his negligence was not a direct cause of his injuries. The jury then considered all of the negligence that contributed as a direct cause of Johnson's injuries and attributed 70% of the negligence to PUC and 30% to Johnson. Finally, the jury awarded Johnson $40, 000 for past bodily and mental harm and $200, 000 for past loss of earnings and declined to award any other damages.

         On October 29, 2013, one week after the jury returned its special verdict, PUC moved for an order directing entry of judgment in the amount of $0 pursuant to PUC's motion for collateral-source determination. PUC cited the workers' compensation act, Minn. Stat. § 176.061, and the collateral-source statute, Minn. Stat. § 548.251, and argued that because Johnson received workers' compensation benefits in excess of the amount of the jury award, judgment should be entered for $0.

         In January 2014, the district court issued an order for a new trial based on the inconsistency between the jury's special-verdict finding that Johnson's negligence was not a direct cause of his injuries and its finding that 30% of all of the negligence that contributed as a direct cause of Johnson's injuries should be attributed to Johnson. Respondents moved for reconsideration. In May 2014, in response to respondents' motion to reconsider, the district court amended its new-trial order to allow respondents to choose between entry of judgment for 70% of the original verdict or a new trial on only the issues of liability and comparative fault.

         The district court interpreted respondents' response to this order to be that respondents did not intend to reject entry of judgment for 70% of the original verdict and that they were not seeking a new trial. The district court then concluded that $48, 450 of the workers' compensation benefits that Johnson received were for wage-loss benefits, and, under the collateral-source rule, the $200, 000 jury verdict for past loss of earnings should be reduced by $48, 450. In an order filed July 11, 2014, the district court awarded respondents 70% of the remaining $151, 550 for past loss of earnings and 70% of the $40, 000 jury verdict for past bodily and mental harm, resulting in an award of $134, 085. The district court denied both parties' posttrial motions for judgment as a matter of law and entered judgment on December 2, 2014.

         On appeal, this court affirmed the district court's orders denying both parties judgment as a matter of law. Johnson v. Princeton Pub. Utils. Comm'n, No. A15-0038, 2016 WL 22243, at *3-5 (Minn.App. Jan. 4, 2016). But this court reversed the district court's collateral-source reduction after concluding that PUC failed to comply with the collateral-source statute when it brought its motion for collateral-source reduction more than eight months before, rather than within ten days after, the district court's order for judgment on July 11, 2014, pursuant to the jury's special verdict. This court also reversed the district court's reduction of the jury's award based on comparative fault and directed the district court on remand to enter judgment for $240, 000. This court concluded that, because the jury should not have answered the special-verdict question regarding apportionment of fault, its answer had no legal effect.

         On remand, the district court entered judgment in favor of respondents for $240, 000. Three days later, on April 21, 2016, PUC filed a motion seeking a reduction of the judgment under the workers' compensation and the collateral-source statutes. Based on this court's direction to enter judgment in the amount ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.