Hufnagel v. Deer River Health Care CenterAnnotate this Case
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) that the compensation judge failed fully to consider the extent to which each of Respondent’s employers sought to shift liability to the other employer and that it was error to deny Respondent’s motion for fees under Minn. Stat. 176.191(1).
In 2015, Respondent filed a workers’ compensation claim for work-related aggravations to a low-back condition resulting from a work-related injury in 2009. Between the 2009 injury and later aggravations sustained in 2014 and 2015, Respondent’s employer and its insurer changed. When Respondent sought benefits for later aggravations sustained in 2014 and 2015, her 2009-employer and her new employer disputed whether the aggravations were a continuation of the 2009 injury or subsequent injuries for which the new employer and its insurer were liable. The compensation judge held the new employer liable for reasonable benefits for the later injuries but denied Respondent’s claim for fees under section 176.191(1). The WCCA reversed the denial of the motion for fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the efforts by each employer to shift responsibility to the other employer greatly increased the burden on Respondent’s counsel to provide effective representation, and therefore, Respondent was entitled to receive reasonable attorney fees under the statute.