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Before the Minnesota Supreme Court

February 2019


Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office

Monday, February 4, 2019

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Colton Tyler Boettcher, Appellant – Case No. A17-1426: Respondent State of Minnesota charged appellant Colton Boettcher with burglary and arson in connection with conduct that occurred at a summer cabin. The jury found Boettcher guilty of the burglary charge but deadlocked on the arson charge. When the district court sentenced Boettcher on the burglary conviction, it required him to pay restitution for the fire damage. The court of appeals affirmed the restitution order.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the district court erred by ordering restitution for the fire damage when Boettcher was not convicted of arson. (St. Louis County)

Nonoral: Tyree Leland Jackson, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A18-1437: Following a jury trial, appellant Tyree Jackson was convicted of first-degree murder. The supreme court affirmed his conviction on direct appeal. State v. Jackson, 714 N.W.2d 681 (Minn. 2006). In February 2018, Jackson filed a petition for postconviction relief, and in May 2018, he filed an amended petition. The district court summarily denied Jackson’s request for postconviction relief.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether Jackson’s claims are time-barred; (2) whether Jackson’s claims are procedurally barred by State v. Knaffla, 243 N.W.2d 737 (Minn. 1976); (3) whether Jackson established that he was denied effective assistance of counsel; and (4) whether Jackson is entitled to an order for DNA testing of a firearm. (Hennepin County)

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

In the Matter of the Application of J.M.M. o/b/o Minors for a Change of Name – Case No. A17-1730: Appellant J.M.M. applied to the district court to change the last names of her three children under Minn. Stat. § 259.10 (2018). The statute provides that “no minor child’s name may be changed without both parents having notice of the pending of the application for change of name, whenever practicable, as determined by the court.” Minn. Stat. § 259.10, subd. 1. Appellant requested that the district court allow the application to proceed without notice to the children’s biological father on the grounds that he has no legal relationship with the children and he had previously threatened her and her family with violence.

Following an initial decision and appeal to the court of appeals, the district court concluded on remand that the biological father is entitled to notice of the name-change application with respect to the two older children because he has a parent-child relationship with them under the Parentage Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 257.51–.75 (2018). The district court also concluded that providing notice is “practicable” under Minn. Stat. § 259.10 because there are ways to adequately address appellant’s safety concerns. The court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether the district court erred by concluding that the biological father of the children is entitled to notice of the name-change application under Minn. Stat. § 259.10; and (2) whether threats of violence against the family rendered notice of the application not “practicable” within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 259.10. (Hennepin County)

Richard Oseland (deceased), by Terrence Oseland, Richard Oseland, and Karen Hayhoe, Relator vs. Crow Wing County and Auto-Owners Insurance Group, Respondents – Case No. A18-1550: Richard Oseland suffered a work-related injury in 1980. He was found to be permanently and totally disabled in 1987. He received benefits through the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA). When paying permanent total disability (PTD) benefits, the employer/insurer took a deduction for the PERA benefits that Oseland received. Oseland died in 2013, and PTD benefits then ceased.

In decisions issued on the same day, the supreme court held that the offset to PTD benefits required by Minn. Stat. § 176.101, subd. 4 (2016), for payment of “old age and survivor’s insurance benefits” applied only to federal social security benefits and not government retirement pension benefits, including those from PERA. See Hartwig v. Traverse Care Ctr., 852 N.W.2d 251 (Minn. 2014); Ekdahl v. Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 213, 851 N.W.2d 874 (Minn. 2014). The parties agree that based on these decisions, Oseland was underpaid PTD benefits.

Oseland’s heirs filed a claim petition for the underpayment. The compensation judge found that interest on the underpayment should be calculated “from the date the original benefits were owed,” using the interest rate in effect at the time the benefits would have been paid (8 percent). The claim for penalties and taxable costs was denied.

The employee appealed, and the employer/insurer cross-appealed. In a split decision, the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) concluded that Minn. Stat. § 176.1292, subd. 2(d) (2018), set the obligation to pay the Hartwig/Ekdahl underpayments, and thus the date by which interest was to be calculated. Because the insurer made the payments before the due date, the WCCA concluded that no interest was owed and reversed the compensation judge. The WCCA affirmed the compensation judge’s denial of the heirs’ claim for taxable costs and penalties.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether the WCCA exceeded its authority by deciding claims based on an inapplicable statute, Minn. Stat. § 176.1292; (2) whether the WCCA’s decision and interpretation of Minn. Stat. § 176.1292 results in due process and equal protection violations of both the U.S. and Minnesota Constitutions; (3) whether the Oseland heirs are entitled to 8% interest on the underpayment of PTD benefits from July 1, 1996, based on the statute in effect on the date of injury; (4) whether the WCCA erred in failing to consider the penalty claim for failure of the insurer to issue payment to the heirs; and (5) whether the WCCA erred as a matter of law in denying payment of the cost required by the insurer to issue payment to the heirs. (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals)

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

Alapati Noga, Respondent vs. Minnesota Vikings Football Club and Travelers Group, Respondent, and Minnesota Vikings Football Club and Minnesota Assigned Risk Plan, administered by Berkley Risk Administrators Company, LLC, Relators – Case No. A18-1685: Alapati Noga played football for the Minnesota Vikings through the 1992 season. He also played professionally for two other NFL teams and played arena football. Noga eventually developed neurological conditions.

In 2015, Noga filed a claim petition for workers’ compensation benefits from the Vikings, based on an asserted Gillette injury to the head. See Gillette v. Harold Inc., 101 N.W.2d 200, 204 (Minn. 1960). The Vikings asserted a number of defenses, including lack of notice about the injury and failure to file the claim within the statute of limitations.

The compensation judge concluded that Noga suffered a Gillette injury and rejected the Vikings’ notice and statute of limitations defenses. The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeal (WCCA) affirmed in a split-decision.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether the WCCA erred and abused its discretion when it concluded that the statute of limitations did not bar the employee’s claim; (2) whether the WCCA erred in deciding that notice was provided to the employer in a doctor report from 2004 that predominantly concerned orthopedic injuries; and (3) whether the WCCA erred in concluding that a Gillette injury had occurred and culminated on December 1, 1992. (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals)

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Marcus Allen Wayne Hallmark, Appellant – A18-0825: Following a jury trial, appellant Marcus Hallmark was convicted of first- and second-degree murder for the death of Thomas Russ. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether the district court committed reversible error by allowing the State to admit a witness’s formal statement to police under the residual hearsay exception; (2) whether the district court committed reversible error by allowing the State to present evidence of the contents of a backpack; and (3) whether the district court erroneously convicted Hallmark of both first- and second-degree murder. (Hennepin County)

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Nonoral: Tessa M. Washek, Respondent vs. New Dimensions Home Healthcare and SFM Mutual Insurance Company, Relators – Case No. A18-1520: Tessa Washek was involved in a work-related vehicle accident that left her a paraplegic. Washek filed a claim petition for payment of a 2014 van she had purchased. The compensation judge determined that the employer was liable for the base cost of the van. The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) affirmed, concluding that the base cost of an accessible van is compensable as a vocational rehabilitation expense.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether the WCCA created a workers’ compensation benefit that is not otherwise compensable under Minnesota workers’ compensation law, and (2) whether the WCCA erred by holding that a motor vehicle is a compensable rehabilitation benefit under Minn. Stat. § 176.102, when the motor vehicle was not a part of an approved rehabilitation plan and the employee was not using it to job search. (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals)

Nonoral: Gerald A. Grace, Relator vs. Smith Foundry Company and TRIFAC Workers’ Compensation Fund, with claims administered by Meadowbrook Claims Services, Respondents – Case No. A18-1591: Gerald Grace suffered a work-related injury to his left arm in 2015. Eventually, as symptoms of pain and weakness in his left elbow and hand increased but were not resolved by various procedures and treatment, Grace explored the possibility that a neck injury contributed to his on-going symptoms. The employer’s independent medical examiner concluded that Grace reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) in June 2017 and that the 2015 work injury did not affect Grace’s neck; Grace’s treating physician agreed with the MMI determination. In the meantime, Grace underwent cervical fusion surgery in August 2017 to address narrowing of the spinal cord.

Grace filed a claim petition, seeking temporary total disability (TTD) benefits, rehabilitation services, and medical expenses, including for the cervical surgery. Following a hearing, the compensation judge found that Grace did not suffer an injury to his cervical spine in 2015 and that the medical care for his spine condition did not arise from a work-related injury, and thus, Grace was not entitled to TTD or rehabilitation benefits. The Workers Compensation Court of Appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) was there substantial evidence, in view of the entire record, to support the decision of the compensation judge that the employee had reached MMI by June 2017; (2) whether the compensation judge’s finding that the employee did not have a serious and disabling injury entitling him to wage loss and rehabilitation benefits was supported by substantial evidence; and (3) whether the compensation judge’s acceptance of a medical opinion as to causation was based on an adequate foundation and substantial evidence. (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals)