MN Supreme Court addresses workers’ compensation case

The Minnesota Supreme Court addressed the rights of intervenors in workers’ compensation proceedings in the August 12, 2020, decision of Koehnen v. Flagship Marine Company and Auto Owners Insurance Company.

The outcome of the case provided some certainty in the workers’ compensation system by confirming that intervenors risk losing their right to recover payments, or other interests, if they decline to participate in the proceedings. Intervenors are third parties who provide services or paid benefits to or on behalf of an injured worker.

In this case, Keith Johnson, D.C. was provided with notice of the right to intervene and chose not to do so in a pending workers’ compensation proceeding. The employee went on to settle his claim with the employer and insurer, and the intervention interests were resolved with the settlement.

A Workers’ Compensation Judge at the Office of Administrative Hearings then issued an award that extinguished the right for Johnson to recover payments, and shortly thereafter, the chiropractor filed a petition for payment of medical expenses.

The employee, the employer and insurer filed motions to dismiss, which the Compensation Judge granted. Johnson then appealed the decision all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court after the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals affirmed the order dismissing Johnson’s petition.

The Court found that the chiropractor chose not to be a party to the case and pursue reimbursement when he failed to participate in the case proceedings. The appellate courts affirmed the chiropractor had no authority or standing to file a petition for reimbursement under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act, or to challenge the ruling that extinguished the chiropractor’s potential intervention interest.

In the end, the Court held that an intervenor who is properly notified of their right to intervene in a workers’ compensation proceeding must either intervene or potentially have their reimbursement rights taken away.

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