Sumner v. Jim Lupient Infiniti and SFM Risk Solutions

Sumner v. Jim Lupient Infiniti and SFM Risk Solutions, WC13-5639 (April 3, 2014)

This case is currently on appeal from the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

The employee, an internet sales director for Jim Lupient Infiniti, allegedly slipped and fell on the employer’s premises, striking her head, left elbow and back. The employer and insurer denied primary liability.  She treated with several medical providers and a private health insurer paid for her treatment. She also received rehabilitation services through the State of Minnesota.

She filed a claim petition seeking wage-loss benefits as well as reimbursement to all intervenors.  All potential intervenors had notice of their right to intervene, and several intervened.  The employer and insurer filed objections to all of the intervention motions, except for two providers.

Although they had been served with a hearing notice, none of the intervenors attended the hearing.  The compensation judge denied all of their intervention claims because they did not personally appear at the hearing as required under Minn. Stat. § 176.361.

On appeal, the WCCA determined that unless a stipulation for settlement had been signed and filed or the intervenor’s right to reimbursement had otherwise been established, all intervenors were required to attend settlement or pretrial conferences, administrative conferences, and the hearing, unless otherwise excused by the judge. Under Minnesota law, failure to appear would result in the denial of a claim for reimbursement.  The WCCA did not find credible the argument that the intervenors had “appeared” simply by filing motions to intervene.

But the WCCA noted there was an exception carved out under Carlino v. Peterson Construction.  In that case, the intervenors had (1) attached sufficient documentation to establish their intervention claim and (2) the employer and insurer had not filed objections to the motions.  This exempted the intervenors from personally having to attend the hearing.  The Carlino case did not apply to the majority of intervenors in Sumner and therefore the judge had authority to deny their right to reimbursement. However, the two providers that the employer did not file objections on were exempted and the WCCA reversed the judge’s order denying reimbursement.