Mohamed Ahmed (“employee”) suffered an admitted work-related injury on June 24, 2019 while working for Allina Health System (“employer”). On November 26, 2019 the employer filed a Notice of Intent to Discontinue Benefits. The employer asserted that the employee had told different stories about how the injury occurred. The employee did not file an objection to the NOID, so benefits were discontinued.
The employee filed a claim petition on August 28, 2020. The employer set an independent medical examination (“IME”) but the employee did not attend the IME and did not provide an explanation for the failure to attend. The employer filed a motion to compel the employee to attend the IME and the compensation judge issued an order compelling him to attend. The employee did not attend the second IME; he said that he was unable to locate the building. He also said that he only arrived five minutes late but the IME firm said that he arrived 20 minutes late. As result, the IME did not go forward. The employer then moved for dismissal of the employee’s claim petition based on his failure to cooperate with the IME process, his inconsistent explanations for failing to attend two IMEs and his failure to comply with the judge’s order to attend the second IME appointment. No objection or response was served to the motion.
The judge dismissed the employee’s claim petition with prejudice. No conference or hearing was held and the order that was issued did not include factual findings or a supporting memorandum. The employee appealed.
On appeal, the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (“W.C.C.A.”) noted that the primary objective of the law was to dispose of cases on their merits. The W.C.C.A. stated that a dismissal with prejudice should only be granted under exceptional circumstances, as this was the most punitive sanction that can be imposed for noncompliance with rules or an order of the court. The W.C.C.A. noted that his failure to attend the IME may make dismissal under Minn. R. 1420.3700 appropriate, but even so, the failure to comply with the judge’s order must be willful. The W.C.C.A. was not persuaded that the employee’s actions rose to that level. The court stated that no meaningful review of the order could occur until a record was created and factual findings were made. The W.C.C.A. vacated the order and remanded the case to the Office of Administrative Hearings for a hearing on the motion to dismiss.
Dismissal of an employee’s case will only be granted under exceptional circumstances. When this is granted, the judge should include findings and a memorandum explaining the determination that was made.