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Ansello v. Wisconsin Central, Ltd.

Supreme Court of Minnesota

August 9, 2017

Daniel M. Ansello, Respondent,
v.
Wisconsin Central, Ltd. and Discover Re Acclaim Risk Management, Relators, Essentia Health System, Intervenor.

         Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts

          Steven T. Moe, Petersen, Sage, Graves, Layman & Moe, P.A., Duluth, Minnesota, for respondent.

          Krista L. Hiner, Larry J. Peterson, Peterson, Logren & Kilbury, P.A., Saint Paul, Minnesota, for relators.

         SYLLABUS

         1. The Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals correctly concluded that the compensation judge has jurisdiction over respondent's claims because an employee who receives workers' compensation benefits under the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act may bring a claim for benefits under the Minnesota Workers' Compensation Act related to the same injury.

         2. The Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals correctly concluded that the compensation judge abused his discretion by dismissing respondent's claims on the theory of forum non conveniens.

         Affirmed.

          OPINION

          GILDEA, CHIEF JUSTICE.

         This appeal arises from the compensation judge's dismissal of respondent Daniel Ansello's request for benefits under the Minnesota Workers' Compensation Act ("Minnesota Act"), Minn. Stat. ch. 176 (2016). The compensation judge concluded that the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act ("Longshore Act"), 33 U.S.C. § 901-50 (2012), provided Ansello's exclusive remedy and that the case should be dismissed in any event under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. The Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals ("WCCA") reversed. Because we agree with the WCCA that the compensation judge has jurisdiction to hear the claims Ansello brought under the Minnesota Act and that the judge abused his discretion by dismissing Ansello's claims under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, we affirm.

         FACTS

         At all times relevant to this appeal, Daniel Ansello was employed by Wisconsin Central, Ltd., and he lived and worked in Duluth. On January 29, 2006, Ansello suffered a low-back injury while working at the Duluth Ore Docks. At the time of his injury, Ansello was performing longshoreman work, which, as he describes it, involved loading and unloading ships at the port.

         Ansello began medical treatment for his injury the day after his accident and had his first low-back surgery approximately 1 month later. Ansello was off work for about 8 months following the surgery. After returning to his longshoreman job, Ansello's back condition progressively worsened over the next few years and eventually led to a second low-back surgery on April 22, 2009. Ansello received indemnity and medical expense benefits under the Longshore Act from Wisconsin Central and its insurance carrier under the Longshore Act, Signal Mutual Indemnity Association, for all the medical treatment he received from the date of the injury through the second surgery and rehabilitation from that surgery.[1]

         Ansello returned to work a year after his second surgery, but again his low-back symptoms worsened, and he aggravated his back in August 2014. The following month, Ansello underwent a third surgery. Signal Mutual denied payment for the third surgery based on an independent medical examiner's opinion that the surgery was not reasonable or necessary treatment. But Signal Mutual continued to pay for certain medical expenses following the third surgery, including periods of physical therapy.

         On April 30, 2015, Ansello filed a request with the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings seeking payment of medical treatment expenses under the Minnesota Act from Wisconsin Central and its insurance carrier under the Minnesota Act, Discover Re Acclaim Risk Management (together, "relators"). Specifically, Ansello requested payment for expenses related to his third surgery, consequential treatments such as cervical and ...


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