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EN BANC CALENDAR

Before the Minnesota Supreme Court

March 2018

SUMMARY OF ISSUES

Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office

Monday, March 5, 2018

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

Western National Insurance Company, Respondent vs. Jon Nguyen, Appellant – Case No. A17-0314: In January 2011, appellant Jon Nguyen was injured in a motor-vehicle accident for which respondent Western National Insurance Company was a no-fault insurer. Western National paid no-fault benefits to Nguyen until an independent medical examiner found that no further treatment was appropriate, at which time Western National notified Nguyen’s attorney of its denial of future benefits. Nguyen sought no-fault arbitration, and lost in January 2013. In February 2014, Nguyen began treatment with a new health-care provider, the Center for Diagnostic Imaging (“CDI”). On April 3, 2014, CDI provided Western National with a bill in the amount of $260 for Nguyen’s February 25, 2014 initial visit. Western National denied coverage on May 2, 2014, citing the previous independent medical examination and arbitration proceeding. Nguyen continued treatment at CDI; his account with CDI eventually exceeded $10,000 before he stopped treatment sometime before the end of 2014. But CDI did not submit bills for that treatment to Western National. On April 4, 2015, Nguyen filed a second arbitration proceeding seeking payment of the outstanding CDI account from Western National, and the arbitrator awarded the entire claim to Nguyen.

Western National made a motion in the district court to vacate the arbitration award, arguing that Minn. Stat. § 62Q.75, subd. 3 (2016), a prompt-payment provision within the Minnesota Health Plan Contracting Act, barred the arbitration award. The district court granted the motion, finding that section 62Q.75 was applicable and barred CDI from billing either Western National or Nguyen; and that because of CDI’s inability to legally bill Nguyen, he never incurred a “loss” under the no-fault arbitration laws that could be the basis for a no-fault claim. The court further reasoned that Minn. Stat. § 65B.54, subd. 1 (2016), an electronic-billing-transmission requirement in the no-fault law, also prevented CDI from legally billing Nguyen, and therefore likewise precluded him from incurring a “loss.” In a published decision, the court of appeals affirmed in relevant part.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are (1) whether a no-fault claimant who is billed by a medical provider suffers a “loss” under the No-Fault Act when the provider does not also timely submit the bill to a “health plan company” under Minn. Stat. § 62Q.75, subd. 3; (2) whether a no-fault claimant who is billed by a medical provider suffers a “loss” under the Act when the provider does not comply with the electronic-transmission requirement set out in Minn. Stat. § 65B.54, subd. 1; and (3) whether Western National was the “responsible health plan company” under Minn. Stat. § 62Q.75, subd. 3, after it denied responsibility to pay further bills. (Hennepin County)

Lake Country Power Cooperative, Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative, Peoples Energy Cooperative, Relators vs. Commissioner of Revenue, Respondent – Case Nos. A17-1478, A17-1479, and A17-1481: Relators separately appealed the Commissioner of Revenue’s summary valuation of their taxable personal property to the Minnesota Tax Court. In each case, the Commissioner moved to dismiss the appeal, arguing it was not timely filed under Minn. Stat. § 273.372, subd. 2(b) (2016). In response to the motions to dismiss, relators argued the appeals were timely filed under Minn. Stat. § 273.372, subd. 2(c) (2016). Concluding that the appeals were filed under subdivision 2(b), rather than subdivision 2(c), the Minnesota Tax Court granted the motions to dismiss. Relators filed a joint petition for a writ of certiorari, which was granted.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether relators timely appealed the summary valuations of their taxable personal property. (Minnesota Tax Court)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

John J. Capistrant, Respondent/Cross-Appellant vs. Lifetouch National School Studios, Inc., Appellant/Cross-Respondent – Case No. A16-1829: John Capistrant was a long-time employee for appellant/cross-respondent Lifetouch National School Studios. His employment contract with Lifetouch included non-compete, non-disclosure, and return-of-property provisions, along with provisions that addressed Capistrant’s commission-based compensation and post-employment payments. A separate provision entitled Lifetouch to discontinue payments if Capistrant violated these contract terms. When disputes developed between Capistrant and Lifetouch over the calculation of Capistrant’s post-employment payments, Capistrant commenced a declaratory-judgment action. During the course of that action, Capistrant retired from Lifetouch. Later, during the course of the declaratory-judgment action, Capistrant disclosed that he had retained documents and records he received during his employment with Lifetouch. Lifetouch asserted that compliance with the return-of-property provision was a condition precedent to payment of the post-employment compensation and based on the failure to comply with that provision, Lifetouch was excused from making those payments. On appeal from the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Lifetouch, the court of appeals reversed, concluding that the forfeiture of post-employment compensation was disproportionate to the harm to Lifetouch, because the company’s property was returned to it.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented include (1) whether the return-of-property provision is a non-compete clause; and (2) whether the provision that allowed Lifetouch to discontinue post-employment payments operates as a disproportionate forfeiture. (Hennepin County)

In re Charges of Unprofessional Conduct in Panel File No. 41755 – Case No. A17-1002: An attorney (“Attorney”) represented a brother (“Brother 1”) in a defamation lawsuit. Another brother (“Brother 2”) was also a defendant in the lawsuit. Brother 2’s insurance company selected T.B. to represent him in the lawsuit under a full reservation of its right to contest whether to indemnify Brother 2. Shortly before trial, Brother 1 orally accepted a settlement offer from the plaintiffs. Plaintiffs’ counsel sent T.B. a Miller-Shugart settlement offer, and T.B. forwarded the settlement to Brother 2. Brother 2 then contacted Attorney. Attorney advised Brother 2 about the terms of the Miller-Shugart settlement offer.

A divided panel of the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board determined that Attorney’s contact with Brother 2 violated Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 4.2. It issued an admonition.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether Attorney’s communication with Brother 2 was made “[i]n representing a client,” in violation of Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 4.2; (2) whether Brother 2 is part of the class of persons that Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 4.2 was designed to protect; (3) whether Attorney communicated with Brother 2, a represented person, “about the subject of the representation,” in violation of Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 4.2; (4) whether Attorney did not violate Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 4.2 because his communication with Brother 2 was authorized by law; and (5) whether Attorney did not know that T.B. was representing Brother 2 regarding the subject that Attorney and Brother 2 discussed. (Panel of the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Tommy James Edwards, Appellant – Case No. A16-1482: Appellant Tommy James Edwards pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and the district court ordered a presentence investigation (PSI). In the adult history section of the PSI, the probation officer listed two convictions of attempted armed robbery that occurred in Wisconsin when petitioner was 17 years old. Edwards filed a motion to exclude the Wisconsin convictions from his criminal history score arguing the record failed to satisfy the requirements of Minn. Sent. Guidelines 2.B.5.e (“The prior can be included in the adult history section only if the factfinder determines that it is an offense for which the offender would have been certified to adult court if it had occurred in Minnesota.”). The district court denied Edwards’ motion and imposed a 54-month sentence. The court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the parties have briefed the following issues: (1) whether Edwards forfeited appellate review of an alleged Blakely violation when he failed to make a Blakely argument in the district court; (2) whether the State forfeited its forfeiture argument when it failed to file a cross-petition; (3) whether, apart from any exception, the Blakely rule applies to factual findings that increase a defendant’s criminal history score; and (4) if so, whether the determination required by Minn. Sent. Guidelines 2.B.5.e falls within the prior-conviction exception to the Blakely rule. (St. Louis County)

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against George E. Hulstrand, Jr., a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0048033 – Case No. A16-1589: An attorney discipline case that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based on the facts of the matter.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

Laurie A. Roller-Dick, Respondent vs. CentraCare Health System and SFM Mutual Companies, Relators – Case No. A17-1816: Respondent Laurie Roller-Dick injured her ankle when she fell on a stairway at her employer’s office, relator CentraCare Health System, on her way out of the building at the end of the work day. Roller-Dick filed a claim for compensation, which the compensation judge denied, finding that the injury did not arise out of the course of employment. Minn. Stat. § 176.021, subd. 4 (2016). The workers’ compensation court of appeals reversed, concluding that the employee encountered an increased risk of injury at the workplace and, therefore, the injury arose out of the course of employment.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented include (1) whether the workers’ compensation court of appeals erred in reversing the compensation judge’s conclusion that the injury did not arise out of the employment; and (2) whether the workers’ compensation court of appeals abused its discretion in resolving the appeal based on theories not raised below or on appeal.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

Eric John Christensen, Respondent vs. Danielle Marie Healey, Appellant – Case No. A16-1056: Appellant Danielle Healey and respondent Eric Christensen are the parents of a child born in 2010. Healey has sole physical custody of the child, subject to Christensen’s parenting time, and the child’s primary residence is with Healey. In 2016, Christensen made a motion for increased parenting time, requesting an “alternating week schedule” for the entire calendar year. The district court construed the motion as seeking joint physical custody, which would change the child’s primary residence. Applying the endangerment standard in Minn. Stat. § 518.18(d)(iv) (2016), the district court denied the motion, concluding that Christensen “failed to make a prima facie case to modify custody.”

On appeal, Christensen argued that the district court should have analyzed his motion under the “best interests” standard in Minn. Stat. § 518.175, subd. 5 (2016), which governs the modification of orders granting parenting time when the modification would not change the child’s primary residence. The court of appeals reversed and remanded, concluding that the district court erred by assessing the motion “based solely on the apportionment of parenting time.” The court of appeals directed the district court on remand to “consider not only the apportionment of parenting time, but also the child’s relevant attachments with each parent’s place of residence and the impact of the modification on such attachments in determining whether Christensen’s proposed modification would change the child’s primary residence.”

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether Christensen’s motion for increased parenting time was governed by the endangerment standard in Minn. Stat. § 518.18(d)(iv) or the best interests standard in Minn. Stat. § 518.175, subd. 5. (Martin County)

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Carol Townsend Trombley, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0300597 – Case No. A17-0493: An attorney discipline case that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based on the facts of the matter.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

St. Thomas Law School – 10:30 A.M.

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Scott Ross Hunn, Appellant – Case No. A16-2001: A law enforcement officer arrested appellant Scott Ross Hunn on suspicion of driving under the influence of a controlled substance. Without reading the implied-consent advisory, which contains information regarding a person’s limited right to counsel, the officer asked if Hunn would take a urine test. Hunn replied “Why not?” The urine sample provided by Hunn showed the presence of methamphetamine. Hunn filed a pretrial motion to suppress the urine sample, which the district court granted. The court of appeals reversed the suppression order, explaining that the district court’s reliance on Friedman v. Comm’r Pub. Safety, 473 N.W.2d 828, 835 (Minn. 1991), was misplaced.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the chemical testing phase in a criminal case is a “critical stage” under which a defendant has a right to counsel, pursuant to Article I, Section 6 of the Minnesota State Constitution. (Mower County)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

Nonoral: Michael Wayne, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A17-1754: Appellant Michael Wayne was convicted of first-degree murder in 1987. Thirty years later, in 2017, Wayne filed his ninth petition for postconviction relief, alleging newly discovered DNA evidence. The district court summarily denied the petition.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the district court miscalculated the expiration date of the postconviction statute of limitations; and (2) whether the district court abused its discretion when it concluded the record conclusively showed that Wayne was not entitled to relief. (Waseca County)