Employer petitioned the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (“W.C.C.A.”) for an order discontinuing the payment of permanent total disability benefits on the ground that the employee would reach the presumptive retirement age. The W.C.C.A. found that parties are permitted to discontinue PTD benefits without filing a petition to discontinue when the employee attains the presumptive retirement age, subject to the employee’s right to petition for reinstatement of those benefits and dismissed the employer’s petition to discontinue.
Employee Pamalyn Buley sustained work-related injuries while working for Polaris on April 24, 2001, September 23, 2005 and August 1, 2010. The employer and employee entered into a stipulation that required ongoing permanent total disability benefits.
The employer filed a petition to discontinue PTD payments, citing Minn. Stat. § 176.101 subd. 4 which provides, “Permanent total disability shall cease at age 67 because the employee is presumed retired from the labor market. This presumption is rebuttable by the employee. The subjective statement the employee is not retired is not sufficient in itself to rebut the presumptive evidence of retirement but may be considered along with other evidence.” The employer relied on the process set forth in Minn. Stat. § 176.238 subd. 5, which provides, “Instead of filing a notice of discontinuance, an employer may serve on the employee and file with the commissioner a petition to discontinue compensation.” Adjudication of PTD can occur through settlement, where the parties have not included language making the disability status conditional on future events. See, Stevens v. S.T. Services, 851 N.W.2d 52, 59, 74 W.C.D. 433 (Minn. 2014).
The W.C.C.A., citing Frandsen v. Ford Motor Co., 801 N.W.2d 177, 182, 71 W.C.D. 377 (Minn. 2011) and Minn. Stat. § 176.101 subd. 4 held that there is no need for an employer or insurer to file a petition to discontinue PTD when the petition to discontinue is based upon the presumptive retirement provision. Rather, an employer may cease payment when the employee attains the presumptive retirement age without taking any further action. The W.C.C.A. again noted, as it did in Frandsen, that this is subject to the employee’s right to petition for reinstatement of those benefits.