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Rodriguez v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

July 2, 2018

Jennifer Rodriguez, Claimant, Appellant,
v.
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., Respondent.

          Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CV-16-18454

          Matthew J. Barber, James S. Ballentine, Cole J. Dixon, Schwebel, Goetz & Seiben, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Chris Angell, David M. Werwie & Associates, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Isaac I. Tyroler, TSR Injury Law, Bloomington, Minnesota (for amicus curiae Minnesota Association for Justice)

          Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Kirk, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         When a workers' compensation insurer refuses to pay for chiropractic services because it has determined under Minn. Stat. § 176.83, subd. 5(c) (2016), that the services are excessive according to the standards established by the workers' compensation rules, Minn. Stat. § 176.83, subd. 5(c), does not relieve an automobile insurer of its obligation to pay basic economic loss benefits according to Minn. Stat. § 65B.54, subd. 3 (2016), to reimburse its insured for the expense of the chiropractic services.

          OPINION

          PETERSON, JUDGE

         In this appeal from an order granting respondent automobile insurer's motion to vacate an arbitration award, the parties dispute whether appellant insured, who was injured in a motor-vehicle accident in the course of her employment, is entitled to basic economic loss benefits for chiropractic treatment that she received for the injury after her employer's workers' compensation insurer determined that additional chiropractic treatment was excessive. We reverse.

         FACTS

         While driving a school bus for her employer, appellant Jennifer Rodriguez was injured when a stolen vehicle crashed into the bus. Old Republic Insurance Company, her employer's workers' compensation insurer, paid for 12 weeks of chiropractic treatment that Rodriguez received at ChiroFirst, P.A. Old Republic then notified ChiroFirst that, because additional chiropractic treatment was not indicated under the treatment parameters set forth in Minn. R. 5221.6200, subp. 3(A) (2017), it would not pay for additional treatment, except as permitted under Minn. R. 5221.6200, subp. 3(B) (2017). In response, ChiroFirst refused to provide additional treatment.

         Rodriguez then began receiving chiropractic treatment from Core Health Chiropractic and provided notice of an uninsured-motorist claim to her personal automobile insurer, respondent State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. Because it appeared to State Farm that Rodriguez was in the course and scope of her employment when she was injured, State Farm sought information about Rodriguez's injuries and treatment and about what benefits she was requesting under her automobile policy. Rodriguez responded that she was claiming no-fault benefits for her chiropractic treatment, and she requested an application for benefits.

         After State Farm failed to pay Rodriguez's bills for chiropractic treatment, Rodriguez filed a petition for no-fault arbitration. During arbitration, State Farm did not dispute the reasonableness or the necessity of the chiropractic treatment that Rodriguez received, but argued that, under the circumstances of this case, the workers' compensation system is the exclusive source for any health care benefits sought in connection with the accident. The arbitrator ruled for Rodriguez and awarded her the full amount claimed, plus costs and interest.

         State Farm brought a motion in the district court to vacate the arbitrator's award on the ground that the arbitrator exceeded her authority. The district court concluded that the plain language of Minn. Stat. § 176.83, subd. 5(c) (2016), precluded no-fault benefits. Based on this conclusion, the district court granted State Farm's motion to vacate. This appeal followed.[1]

         ISSUE

         Does Minn. Stat. § 176.83, subd. 5(c), relieve an insurer of its obligation to pay no-fault benefits to an insured who was injured in the course and scope of her employment when there has been no determination by the commissioner of labor and industry or a compensation judge whether the insured is ...


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