Zillmer v. Lamb

Zillmer v. Lamb, No. WC15-5899 (June 6, 2016)

The employee was injured while driving as a personal care attendant for three minor autistic children. The mother manages care services for her children through public funds dispensed to the minor children for services, wages, and goods through Ramsey County and the Department of Human Services. The contract was changed for tax purposes, so that the minor child, S.L., was the employer of the personal care attendants with Ms. Lamb acting on his behalf.

In 2013, the employee filed a first report of injury with the Department naming Ms. Lamb, who was acting on behalf of S.L., as her employer. The Special Compensation Fund accepted liability and filed a petition for reimbursement against Orion, who contracted out the personal care attendants, and Security National/AmTrust North America, its workers’ compensation liability insurer. Orion denied it was an employer and petitioned to join Ms. Lamb as a necessary party. The compensation judge issued an order for joinder of Ms. Lamb.

Orion filed a motion to dismiss the SCF’s petition for reimbursement, alleging they were a payroll agent, not an employer. The judge granted Orion’s motion to dismiss, stating there was no genuine issue of fact, and that Orion was not the employer of Zillmer. SCF appealed, arguing there was evidence contradicting the judge’s conclusion and the judge erred in making the determination without a full evidentiary hearing.

The WCCA found that, at the conference, Orion’s attorney referred to the conference as a summary judgment type proceeding. The Workers’ Compensation Act does not provide for summary judgment hearings, but allows determination of legal issues on stipulated facts under Minn. Stat. §176.322. The court found that the compensation judge’s decision does not indicate what was considered an analyzed in finding Orion not an employer. There were no witnesses called and no exhibits entered into the record. There were material facts at issue regarding the employment relationship, and as such, the WCCA vacated he compensation judge’s order.