Labaw v. Pearson Auto Body

Labaw v. Pearson Auto Body, No. WC14-5752 (January 29, 2015)

In this case, the employee appealed from a compensation judge’s findings and order which denied his request for ongoing TTD benefits from a 1983 injury.  At the time of injury, the employee worked at Pearson Auto Body, who was insured for workers’ compensation purposes by Federated Mutual Group.

The employee’s Claim Petition listed three dates of injury with three different employers and insurers.  In addition to the 1983 low back injury at Pearson, there was also a 2006 and 2011 low back injury with two other employers.  The 2006 injury was an admitted injury.

Because there were several employers and insurers, Federated began paying benefits to the employee under a Temporary Order, which was based on the employee’s Claim Petition.  In the Claim Petition, the employee alleged his current disability was caused by all three dates of injury and he attached a medical report from his treating doctor in support of his allegations.

At a hearing on the matter, the parties stipulated that MMI was reached on November 20, 2013. Subsequently, Pearson and Federated filed a notice of intention to discontinue TTD benefits 90 days after that date, as they are lawfully allowed to do. That law, however, did not go in to effect until January 1, 1984. At the time of the 1983 injury, the law at that time would have allowed the employee to collect TTD benefits for the rest of his life.

The employee argued that because the law on MMI did not go in to effect until January 1, 1984, he was owed TTD benefits under the law as it was in 1983.  Therefore, the employee argued that his benefits being paid by Federated under the Temporary Order could not be discontinued.  But, according to Joyce v. Lewis Nut & Bolt Co., 412 N.W.2d 304 (Minn. 1987), the law at the time of a “controlling event” governs the determination of whether benefits can be discontinued.  Therefore, the WCCA affirmed the compensation judge who found either the 2006 or 2011 event, or both, were considered “controlling events” for purposes of determining benefits, and Federated was allowed to discontinue benefits 90 days after service of MMI.