Halvorson v. B&F Fastener Supply, et al.

Halvorson v. B&F Fastener Supply, et al., No. A16-0920 (Minn. 2017).

The Employee injured her right elbow and bilateral knees while working for the Employer. She subsequently received benefits, which were awarded by a compensation judge. These benefits included rehabilitation services. The Employee eventually obtained part-time employment.  As a result, the Employer and Insurer filed a Petition to Discontinue rehabilitation benefits.

The Employer and Insurer’s Petition to Discontinue was initially denied, and was subsequently heard by a compensation judge. At hearing, the Employer and Insurer limited the scope of the hearing to whether the employee was a “qualified employee” and whether she had returned to “suitable gainful employment.” The compensation judge determined that the employee no longer required rehabilitation services as she obtained part-time employment, and thus was no longer a qualified employee. The Employee appealed.

The WCCA reversed the compensation judge’s decision, indicating that “good cause” must be shown in order to termination rehabilitation benefits, pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 176.102, subd. 8(a) and Minn. Rule 5220.0510, subp. 5. The compensation judge did not apply the “good cause” standard, and as a result, the Employer and Insurer’s Petition to Discontinue rehabilitation benefits could not be granted. The Employer and Insurer appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

The Minnesota Supreme Court noted that they may review questions of law de novo.

In its opinion, the Court determined that in order to terminate rehabilitation benefits good cause must be shown. It is insufficient to merely assert that an Employee is no longer a qualified employee or that he or she has returned to suitable gainful employment. Rather, parties attempting to discontinue rehabilitation benefits must indicate that they are terminating rehabilitation based on a showing of good cause, including “one of the enumerated grounds in the plan-modification provision or on some other good-cause basis.”

However, the Court noted that if an employee is no longer a qualified employee, or if an employee “can[not] reasonably be expected to return to suitable gainful employment through the provision of rehabilitation services,” that this may indicate that they are “unlikely ‘to benefit from further rehabilitation services,’” which is an enumerated ground of good cause under Minn. Stat. § 176.102, subd. 8.  Nevertheless, the Court did not analyze whether the Employer and Insurer in this matter would have been able to terminate rehabilitation services if the compensation judge applied the “good cause” standard in this matter.