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.

Halvorson v. B&F Fastener Supply and Selective Insurance Group

Supreme Court of Minnesota

September 20, 2017

Julie D. Halvorson, Respondent,
v.
B&F Fastener Supply and Selective Insurance Group, Relators.

         Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts

          Timothy J. McCoy, McCoy, Peterson & Jorstad, Ltd., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for respondent.

          Elizabeth Chambers-Brown, Brown & Carlson, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for relators.

         SYLLABUS

         1. Minnesota Statutes § 176.102, subd. 6(a) (2016), which addresses an employee's initial eligibility for rehabilitation services, does not provide an independent mechanism for an employer to terminate rehabilitation benefits.

         2. Minnesota Rule 5220.0100, subps. 22 and 34 (2015), does not allow an employer to terminate an employee's rehabilitation benefits.

         Affirmed.

          OPINION

          STRAS, Justice.

         This appeal from the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) requires us to determine when, and under what circumstances, an employer may terminate an employee's rehabilitation benefits. Relying on the definition of "qualified employee" in an administrative rule, the compensation judge concluded that an employee was no longer eligible for rehabilitation benefits because she had obtained "suitable gainful employment." See Minn. R. 5220.0100, subps. 22, 34 (2015). The WCCA reversed, holding that an employer must show "good cause" before terminating rehabilitation benefits. Halvorson v. B&F Fastener Supply, No. WC15-5869, 2016 WL 3251720, *6-7 (Minn. WCCA May 9, 2016) (citing Minn. Stat. § 176.102, subd. 8(a) (2016), and Minn. R. 5220.0510, subp. 5 (2015)). Because we agree with the WCCA that the compensation judge applied the wrong legal standard in granting the employer's petition to discontinue rehabilitation services, we affirm.

         FACTS

         The relevant facts are undisputed. Respondent Julie Halvorson sustained an injury to her right elbow and both knees while working for relator B&F Fastener Supply. A compensation judge awarded workers' compensation benefits to Halvorson, including rehabilitation services, which consisted of vocational assistance intended to return Halvorson to a job in her field or in another area that could "produce[] an economic status as close as possible" to her pre-injury employment. Minn. Stat. § 176.102, subd. 1(b) (2016). In accordance with the compensation judge's decision, B&F and its insurer, Selective Insurance Group (collectively "B&F"), paid for Halvorson's wage losses, treatment expenses, and rehabilitation services arising out of the injury. Halvorson eventually obtained part-time employment with another employer, which prompted B&F to seek the discontinuation of Halvorson's rehabilitation services.

         B&F filed a request to discontinue rehabilitation services with the Workers' Compensation Division of the Department of Labor and Industry. See Minn. Stat. § 176.106 (2016). The request claimed that Halvorson was no longer a "qualified employee" entitled to receive rehabilitation benefits because she had returned to "suitable gainful employment" with another employer. See Minn. R. 5220.0100, subps. 22, 34 (defining "qualified employee" and "suitable gainful employment"). After the Workers' Compensation Division denied B&F's request, B&F requested a formal hearing before a compensation judge. See Minn. Stat. § 176.106, subd. 7(a).

         At the outset of the hearing, B&F advised the compensation judge that the only two issues for decision were (1) "whether [Halvorson] is a qualified employee for rehabilitation services"; and (2) "whether she has returned to suitable gainful employment such that she would be precluded from receiving ongoing rehabilitation services." Halvorson agreed with B&F's statement and specifically noted that, under Minn. R. 1420.2150, subd. 2(c) (2015), the hearing was limited to the issues that B&F had raised in its request to the Workers' Compensation Division.

         The compensation judge granted B&F's request, concluding that Halvorson was no longer a "qualified employee" in light of her part-time job, which had eliminated the need for further rehabilitation services. The WCCA, in reversing the compensation judge, declined to evaluate whether Halvorson's part-time job constituted "suitable gainful employment" or whether she continued to be a "qualified employee." See Halvorson, 2016 WL 3251720, at *7. Rather, the WCCA determined that every request to terminate rehabilitation services is subject to the "good cause" standard in Minn. Stat. § 176.102, subd. 8(a), and Minn. R. 5220.0510, subp. 5, neither of which the compensation judge considered in terminating Halvorson's rehabilitation benefits. Id. In light of the compensation judge's improper reliance on the definitional provisions of an administrative rule, Minn. R. 5220.0100, subps. 22, 34, and B&F's decision not to have its request evaluated under the "good cause" standard, the WCCA held that B&F was not entitled "to terminate [Halvorson's] rehabilitation benefits." Id. B&F now seeks review of the WCCA's decision by writ of certiorari.

         ANALYSIS

         Our task in this appeal is to identify what legal standard governs a request to terminate rehabilitation benefits awarded to an employee as part of a compensable workers' compensation injury. Rehabilitation services are a vocational benefit to assist an injured employee in "return[ing] to a job related to the employee's former employment or to a job in another work area" that provides the employee with "an economic status as close as possible to" what the employee would have had "without [the] disability." Minn. Stat. § 176.102, subd. 1(b). To receive rehabilitation services, an employee must first meet with a qualified rehabilitation consultant, who develops a plan for services if the "consultation indicates that rehabilitation services are appropriate." Id., subds. 4(a), (e) (2016). If an employee is eligible to receive rehabilitation services, the compensation judge then approves, modifies, or rejects the plan developed by the qualified rehabilitation consultant. Id., subd. 6(a) (2016). Following the approval and implementation of a plan for rehabilitation services, an employer or insurer may request the termination of the plan based on "a showing of good cause." Id., subd. 8(a).

         The parties disagree on the procedure for terminating rehabilitation services. B&F, consistent with the compensation judge's decision, argues that two definitional provisions-one defining "qualified employee, " Minn. R. 5220.0100, subp. 22, and the other defining "suitable gainful employment, " id., subp. 34-permit the compensation judge to terminate rehabilitation services. Halvorson, who agrees with the WCCA's approach, views the good-cause standard, as defined in Minn. Stat. ยง ...


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.