EN BANC CALENDAR
Before the Minnesota Supreme Court
SUMMARY OF ISSUES
Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office
Monday, March 31, 2014
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
Lon F. Gamble, Respondent vs. Twin Cities Concrete Products and Gallagher Bassett Services, Inc., Relators, Lakeview Hospital, Intervenor, Respondent, Minnesota Laborers Health & Welfare Fund, Dr. Elmer Kasperson, Nurse Anesthesia Services, St. Croix Orthopaedics, Intervenors – Case No. A13-1409: Lon Gamble, an employee of Twin Cities Concrete Products (TCCP), was injured when he fell from a ladder while at work. TCCP admitted liability for the injury and paid various workers’ compensation benefits. After the fall, Gamble began to experience low back pain, and his treating physician recommended a spinal fusion. TCCP denied reimbursement for the surgery. Gamble, however, had the surgery at Lakeview Hospital. Gamble’s health insurer, Minnesota Laborers Health & Welfare Fund (the Fund), paid Lakeview $52,089 for the surgery.
In June 2011, a hearing was held before the compensation judge; Lakeview was not given timely notice of its right to intervene at this hearing and did not participate in the hearing. The compensation judge found the fusion surgery was causally related to Gamble’s injury but that it was not reasonable and necessary. The compensation judge further found that TCCP had to reimburse the Fund for the payment it made to Lakeview.
TCCP paid the Fund and then sought reimbursement from Lakeview, which filed a motion to intervene. The compensation judge reopened the proceeding and allowed Lakeview to demonstrate that the surgery was reasonable and necessary. The compensation judge once again rejected that argument. The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) reversed.
On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether a medical provider is entitled to payment of its claim if it was not given notice of its right to intervene before a hearing resulting in a final resolution of an employee’s workers’ compensation claims, regardless of whether the treatment provided to the employee was reasonable and necessary; and (2) whether the WCCA properly determined that TCCP is responsible for paying Lakeview. (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals).
Nonoral: In re Charges of Unprofessional Conduct against A.B., a Minnesota Attorney, Panel Case No. 35121 – Case No. A13-1856: An attorney disciplinary matter that presents the issue of whether a panel of the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board acted arbitrarily, capriciously, or unreasonably when it issued an admonition against A.B.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
University of St. Thomas Law School
State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Clarence Bruce Beaulieu, petitioner, Appellant – Case No. A12–2192: Clarence Beaulieu pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary. In accordance with the parties’ plea agreement, the district court stayed execution of a 57-month prison sentence and placed Beaulieu on probation. When Beaulieu later appeared before the court on an alleged probation violation, defense counsel informed the court that Beaulieu would admit the violation. Without discussing the rights set forth in Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471 (1972), the district court accepted Beaulieu’s admission, revoked his probation, and executed the sentence.
On appeal to the court of appeals, Beaulieu claimed his probation revocation must be reversed because the district court failed to inform him of his Morrissey rights. The court of appeals affirmed.
On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether a defendant, who is represented by counsel, may waive his Morrissey rights by silence. (Polk County).
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
Curtis B. Braatz, Respondent vs. Parsons Electric Company and Zurich North America/GAB Robins, Inc., Relators – Case No. A13-2320: Curtis Braatz, an employee of Parsons Electric Company, asserted claims for wage loss benefits, medical benefits, and rehabilitation benefits under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act. Parsons denied liability on all of those claims. Shortly before the hearing, Braatz severed the wage loss and rehabilitation benefit claims and proceeded to the hearing only on liability and medical benefits. The compensation judge ruled for Braatz and awarded him approximately $11,000 in medical benefits and approximately $2,000 as attorney fees, representing a contingent value of the medical benefits awarded. In addition, finding that the contingent fee award was inadequate to compensate Braatz’s attorney, the compensation judge awarded $10,000 as excess attorney fees pursuant to Irwin v. Surdyk’s Liquor, 599 N.W.2d 132 (Minn. 1999).
Parsons appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) and Braatz cross-appealed. The WCCA affirmed. It rejected Parsons’ arguments that Braatz’s severance of claims acted as either a forfeiture of his right to seek attorney fees, or a cap on the fees that could be awarded, and that the compensation judge failed to apply the lodestar analysis set out in Green v. BMW of North America, LLC, 826 N.W.2d 530 (Minn. 2013). Finally, the WCCA rejected Braatz’s challenge to the final fee award.
On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether the WCCA’s affirmance of the award of attorney fees despite the severance of reasonably related claims was an error of law under the forfeiture provisions of Minn. Stat. § 176.081, subd. 1(a)(3) (2012); (2) whether the WCCA’s Order permitted the transfer of attorney fee liability contrary to its earlier precedent and the “American Rule”; and (3) whether the WCCA’s affirmance of the award of attorney fees failed to consider a lodestar analysis requiring business judgment per Green v. BMW of North America, LLC, 826 N.W.2d 530 (Minn. 2013). (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals).
Nonoral: Robert Michael Hughes, petitioner, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A13-2169: Robert Michael Hughes was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder in October 2006 for the shooting death of his wife, and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. The Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed Hughes’s conviction on direct appeal.
Hughes filed his second postconviction petition in March 2013, in which he claimed effective assistance of trial counsel and six additional claims for relief. The postconviction court denied the petition without a hearing.
On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the postconviction court abused its discretion when it denied Hughes’ postconviction petition without a hearing because it is a successive petition; (2) whether the postconviction court abused its discretion when it denied the postconviction petition without a hearing because Hughes filed it more than 2 years after his direct appeal; and (3) whether the postconviction court abused its discretion when it denied the postconviction petition because all the claims were, or could have been raised in the direct appeal. (Freeborn County).
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center
State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. David Ford McMurray, Appellant – Case No. A12-2266: David McMurray put his household trash out on the front curb for its regular weekly pickup by a city-contracted solid waste hauler. The trash was in plastic bags, and the bags were placed inside a waste receptacle. The waste hauler picked up the trash but did not compact it or mix it with the rest of the waste. Instead, as previously arranged, he turned the trash over to Hutchinson police, who, acting on a tip that McMurray was in possession of controlled substances, searched the trash and found methamphetamine residue and drug paraphernalia. Armed with this information police obtained a warrant to search McMurray’s home, where they found methamphetamine and more drug paraphernalia. McMurray was charged with a controlled substance crime. The district court denied his pretrial motion to suppress the evidence seized pursuant to the warrant on the ground that the warrant was based entirely on an unconstitutional search of his trash. McMurray was then found guilty of a controlled substance crime.
On appeal to the court of appeals, McMurray acknowledged that the warrantless search of his trash was valid under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. He argued that article I, section 10, of the Minnesota Constitution should be construed to provide greater privacy protection to a person’s trash than is provided under the federal constitution. The court of appeals rejected that argument and affirmed McMurray’s conviction.
On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether article I, section 10, of the Minnesota Constitution should be construed to require that police obtain a warrant before they search a person’s garbage. (McLeod County).
State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Keith Richard Rossberg, Appellant – Case No. A13-1241: Keith Richard Rossberg was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder in March 2013 for the shooting death of his friend and neighbor Devan Hawkinson in 2011. Rossberg was sentenced to life in prison without parole. As part of its case-in-chief, and over Rossberg’s objection, the State introduced evidence of a variety of incidents that occurred in late 2008, all of which involved some kind of misconduct by Rossberg, including acts of violence, or threats of violence, against Hawkinson; damage to Hawkinson’s property; and firearms-related conduct. The State also presented evidence that Hawkinson expressed his fear of Rossberg. The trial court ruled that the evidence was admissible to show the relationship between Rossberg and Hawkinson.
On appeal to the supreme court, numerous issues are presented, including: (1) whether Rossberg was denied the right to a fair trial where the State introduced a vast array of bad-act and character evidence that was remote in time from the charged offense and which lacked probative value as to motive, intent, opportunity, or plan; and (2) whether Rossberg was denied a fair trial where the trial court admitted statements by Hawkinson to police concerning his fear of Rossberg, where the statements were made during the police investigation and Rossberg did not raise the defense of accident, suicide, or self-defense. (Wright County).