Mohammed v. Minn. Veterans Home, No. WC16-5988 (W.C.C.A. April 4, 2017).
The employee started working as a human services technician for the Minnesota Veterans Home in 2001. During the course of his employment, he had multiple injuries. Some of these injuries were work related. He reported some of the work related injuries but not others.
On June 29, 2002, the employee was kicked in the left knee while assisting a resident out of bed. He did not report this injury to the self-insured employer until December 1, 2003. There was no medical documentation of a knee injury until December 29, 2003. The employer denied primary liability by letter dated January 14, 2004 for lack of notice. No workers’ compensation benefits were ever paid. The employee did not initiate an action or proceeding to recover workers’ compensation benefits for the left knee injury until March 30, 2010.
On October 31, 2002, a total care patient weighing approximately 230 pounds fell backwards while the employee was helping him sit up in bed and the employee’s right arm was behind the resident’s back. The employee developed immediate pain in his right shoulder and arm and low back. He reported this incident to the employer. Liability was accepted.
A Compensation Judge issued Findings and Order on June 21, 2016 finding the employee failed to establish mental incapacity within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 176.151, subd. c (2016) sufficient to toll the statute of limitations as it related to the alleged left knee injury. The Compensation Judge further held that he failed to initiate a claim for the left knee injury within six years after the incident and his claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The Compensation Judge also found that the right shoulder injury was temporary in nature and had fully resolved by March 11, 2004. The pro se employee appealed.
The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (“W.C.C.A.”) affirmed the compensation judge’s Findings and Order. Under Minn. Stat. § 176.151, subd. a, actions to determine or recover workers’ compensation must be initiated within three years after the self-insured employer has made a written report of the injury to the Department of Labor and Industry, and not more than six years from the date of the incident. The employee did not bring a claim within six years from the date of the incident. The employee argued he received medical treatment for the knee immediately after the incident, and that following the left knee injury, in combination with the right shoulder injury, he suffered mental anguish and psychological problems to such a degree that the time to assert his claim should be extended three years from the date any incapacity ceased under Minn. Stat. § 176.151 subd. c.
Minn. Stat. § 176.151 subd. c provides:
In case of physical or mental incapacity, other than minority, of the injured person or dependents to perform or cause to be performed any act required within the time specified in this section, the period of limitation in any such case shall be extended for three years from the date when the incapacity ceases.
During the claimed period of incapacity, the employee completed a first report of injury and provided timely notice for the October 31, 2002 date of injury, continued to work, attended and graduated from the University of Minnesota and became a United States citizen. The W.C.C.A. held that these facts and circumstances reasonably support the conclusion that the employee was not mentally incapacitated to such a degree that he was incapable of performing the acts required to initiate a claim within six years following the knee incident. The W.C.C.A. affirmed the Compensation Judge’s finding that the employee’s claim of a left knee injury on or about June 29, 2002 was barred by the statute of limitations.
The W.C.C.A. also found that there was substantial evidence to support the Compensation Judge’s finding that the employee’s right shoulder injury was temporary and had resolved by March 11, 2004. The W.C.C.A. affirmed the Compensation Judge’s Findings and Order in all respects.