Cobb v. Continental Hydraulics and Travelers Ins. Co

Cobb v. Continental Hydraulics and Travelers Ins. Co., No. WC15-5836 (W.C.C.A. August 4, 2016)

Employee appealed the compensation judges’ conclusion that substantial evidence supports the employee’s failure to prove his notice of appeal was timely filed under Minn. Stat. §§ 176.421 and 176.275.

Compensation Judge Sandra Grove issued a Findings and Order on May 14, 2015 involving employee’s neck and right shoulder injury.  Employee sought to appeal the judge’s Findings and Order. Pursuance to Minn. Stat. § 176.421, the appellant must, within 30 days, serve a copy of the notice of appeal on each adverse party and file the original notice with the chief administrative law judge and a copy with the commissioner.

As defined by Minn. R. 9800.0100, subp. 6 and Minn. Stat. 176.275, “filed” is completed with the receipt of the document.   If served to the wrong agency, it shall still be deemed to be filed with the proper agency.  The receiving agency must note the date and forward within two working days to the correct agency.

In this case, the adverse party received notice of appeal on June 15, 2015, the expiration date to the 30-day appeal.  However, OAH did not stamp it received notice until June 19, 2015, four days after expiration of the 30-day requirement.

It appeared after investigation that the State created form acquired from the OAH website contained the DOLI post office box number instead of OAH.   Employee used this error in preparing his notice to OAH. This caused the notice to go to DOLI instead of OAH. Employee argued the State should be estopped because it was the State’s form.

The WCCA affirmed the workers’ compensation judge’s conclusion reasoning that the correct address was on the form in a preprinted section at the bottom of the form, the use of the form was not required for the notice, and even if the request did go to the wrong office, it was not received by OAH until June 19, 2016.  With the two day requirement to forward the mail to the correct department, the workers’ compensation judge reasoned that the earliest DOLI received the notice was June 17, 2016, still 2 days after expiration.

Finally, the WCCA affirmed the decision reasoning that with the above facts, the employee failed to meet his burden under Minn. Stat. § 176.421 with bringing forward evidence to show that the workers’ compensation judge’s conclusion was “clearly erroneous and unsupported by substantial evidence.”