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EN BANC CALENDAR

Before the Minnesota Supreme Court

January 2019

SUMMARY OF ISSUES

Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

Shonwta Demar Jackson, Appellant vs. Commissioner of Human Services, Respondent – Case No. A17-1135: In 2010, a licensed facility submitted a background-study request to respondent Commissioner of Human Services, under the Department of Human Services Background Studies Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 245C.01–.34 (2018), regarding appellant Shonwta Demar Jackson. As part of the background study, the Commissioner consulted records which revealed that in 2002, Jackson’s 12-year-old son accused Jackson of physical and sexual abuse that occurred in 1998, when the child was 8 or 9 years old. A child-protection investigation had been opened at that time, and the investigation had resulted in a preponderance-of-the-evidence finding of maltreatment on the basis of physical and sexual abuse. Based on the information in the records, the Commissioner concluded that Jackson was disqualified under Minn. Stat. § 245C.14, subd. 1(2), for committing an act that met the definition of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. The Commissioner sent Jackson a letter informing him of the disqualification, and notifying him of his right to request reconsideration and the consequences of not doing so—permanent disqualification. See Minn. Stat. §§ 245C.27, subd. 1, 245C.29, subd. 2. Jackson did not request reconsideration within the allotted time. In January and May 2012, two other companies requested background studies on Jackson, and the Commissioner notified Jackson that he was disqualified based on the 1998 incident.

In July 2016, another employer requested a background study on Jackson. The Commissioner again notified Jackson and the employer that he is permanently disqualified because of the 1998 incident. Jackson requested reconsideration, which the Commissioner denied, stating that the correctness of Jackson’s disqualification became conclusive when he failed to challenge the disqualification in 2010 and 2012.

Jackson sought certiorari review, and the court of appeals affirmed, finding that under the Act, Jackson’s failure to timely seek reconsideration of the 2010 disqualification rendered that disqualification conclusive and applicable to all future background studies. The court rejected Jackson’s argument that the statutory scheme violated his due-process rights.

 

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether Minn. Stat. § 245C.29, in conjunction with Minn. Stat. § 245C.27 and Minn. Stat. § 245C.24, which together provide that certain employment disqualifications are conclusive for life, establishes a permanent, irrebuttable presumption that violates the due process clauses of the state and federal constitutions. (Department of Human Services)

Nonoral: Daniel S. James, Respondent vs. Duluth Clinic, Relator, and BRAC, Administrator – Case No. A18-1498: Respondent Daniel James suffered an ACL tear while working as a nurse anesthetist for relator Duluth Clinic. The employee heard a “pop” after he rolled his chair back at the end of procedure, stood up, and pivoted to his right. In response to the employee’s workers’ compensation claim, the employer affirmatively alleged that the injury was idiopathic because the cause of the injury was unknown. The compensation judge concluded that the employee failed to establish that the injury arose out of his employment or that he faced an increased risk of injury in his employment. The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) reversed the compensation judge’s legal conclusion that the employee’s injury did not arise out his employment.

 

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the WCCA erred in finding that the employee encountered combined circumstances in his working environment sufficient to show that some hazard increased his exposure to injury, thus satisfying the “arising out of” requirement under Minn. Stat. § 176.021, subd. 1 (2018); and (2) whether the WCCA applied the proper standard of review to the compensation judge’s decision. (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals)

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

Guardian Energy, LLC, Relator vs. County of Waseca, Respondent – Case No. A16-1850: This appeal involves the County of Waseca’s assessment of Guardian Energy’s taxable real property at its ethanol production facility in Janesville, Minnesota. A previous decision by the supreme court affirmed the tax court’s decision in part, but vacated in part and remanded for reconsideration of the valuation of the real property based on the calculation of external obsolescence. Guardian Energy v. Cty. of Waseca, 868 N.W.2d 253 (Minn. 2015). The tax court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law in September 2016 following remand proceedings, after which the County moved for amended findings. Guardian Energy filed an appeal before the tax court had decided the County’s motion. The County then filed a notice of related appeal and moved to dismiss Guardian Energy’s appeal as premature. After motions filed by the parties, the supreme court stayed the appeal pending the tax court’s resolution of the County’s motion. The tax court’s final order addressing the County’s motion for amended findings was filed in February 2018. No appeal was taken from this order or the entry of judgment. The supreme court vacated the stay entered in this appeal and directed the parties to also address the County’s motion to dismiss the appeal.

The following issues are presented: (1) whether the tax court’s September 2016 order was a final order appealable as of right; (2) if not, whether that order is still valid; and (3) if so, whether the tax court complied with the supreme court’s directions on remand regarding the analysis and calculation of external obsolescence. (Minnesota Tax Court)

Nonoral: Ellen Forrest, Respondent vs. Children’s Hospitals & Clinics of Minnesota, Relator, and BRAC, Administrator, and Summit Orthopedics, Intervenor – Case No. A18-1499: Respondent Ellen Forrest sustained a knee injury as she traversed the concrete landing separating two flights of stairs while working as a respiratory therapist for relator Children’s Hospitals & Clinics of Minnesota. In response to the employee’s workers’ compensation claim, the employer affirmatively alleged that the injury was idiopathic because the cause of the injury was unknown. The compensation judge found that the employee’s injury arose out and in the course of her employment and ordered the employer to pay for the medical treatment and other related expenses. The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) affirmed the findings and order of the compensation judge.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the WCCA erroneously affirmed the compensation judge’s determination that an employee’s use of stairs represented an increased risk of injury; (2) whether the WCCA conflated the “arising out of” and “in the course of” requirements under Minn. Stat. § 176.021, subd. 1 (2018); and (3) whether the compensation judge and the WCCA erred in concluding that the employee’s injuries “arose out of” her employment. (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals)

Monday, January 7, 2019

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

Svihel Vegetable Farm, Inc., Appellant vs. Department of Employment and Economic Development, Respondent – Case No. A17-1250: Appellant Svihel Vegetable Farm, Inc., employs certain foreign nationals under the H-2A or J-1 visa programs. These individuals are not authorized to work in the United States except under the terms of the visas. The farm did not pay unemployment insurance taxes on the wages earned by the foreign visa workers for the years 2012 to 2015. Following an audit, respondent Department of Employment and Economic Development issued a determination that the farm’s failure to pay unemployment insurance taxes on the foreign visa workers’ wages resulted in an underpayment of tax.

The farm appealed, arguing that because the foreign visa workers are excluded from coverage under the Federal Unemployment Tax Act, see 26 C.F.R. §§ 31.3121(g)–1(a)(3), 31.3121(b)(1)–1(c) (2018), the Minnesota unemployment insurance statute, which incorporates provisions of federal law by reference, likewise does not cover the foreign visa workers. See Minn. Stat. § 268.035, subd. 2 (2018) (defining “agricultural employment” by reference to the definition of “agricultural labor” under 26 U.S.C. § 3306(k) and 26 C.F.R. § 31.3121(g)1). The farm also argued that if the foreign visa workers became unemployed, they would no longer be eligible to work in the United States and therefore would not be eligible to receive unemployment compensation. An unemployment law judge determined that the foreign visa workers are in fact covered by the Minnesota statute. On petition for writ of certiorari, the court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the plain language of the Minnesota statute does not incorporate the exclusion in 26 C.F.R. § 31.3121(b)(1)–1(c).

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the foreign visa workers are excluded from coverage under the Minnesota unemployment insurance statute because of the statute’s incorporation of federal law. (Department of Employment and Economic Development)

Ryan Larson, Appellant vs. Gannett Company, Inc., et al., Respondents – Case No. A17-1068: Appellant Ryan Larson was arrested in 2012 for the shooting death of a Minnesota police officer. The day after the murder, law enforcement officials held a joint press conference, and the Department of Public Safety issued a news release. Respondents Multimedia Holdings Corporation d/b/a KARE 11-TV and d/b/a the St. Cloud Times subsequently issued news reports that contained statements relaying what law enforcement officials said or believed about Larson’s connection to the officer’s death, statements referencing the allegations against Larson, and statements conveying other information about Larson. Larson denied killing the officer, and investigators later cleared him of involvement in the officer’s death.

Larson brought a defamation action. Among other defenses, respondents argued that the fair and accurate reporting privilege bars the action. Following a jury trial, the district court directed entry of judgment in favor of respondents, but subsequently vacated the judgment and granted Larson’s post-trial motion for a new trial. The court of appeals reversed and remanded. The court of appeals concluded that the district court erred in concluding that the fair and accurate reporting privilege does not apply here, erred in setting aside the jury verdict, erred in vacating the judgment with respect to eight of the statements, and erred in ordering a new trial.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the fair and accurate reporting privilege applies to summaries of statements made by law enforcement officials in a press conference and press release; (2) whether the court of appeals erred in reversing judgment as a matter of law on the falsity element; (3) whether the court of appeals erred in reversing the order granting a new trial; and (4) whether respondents’ statements were substantially accurate as a matter of law under the fair and accurate reporting privilege. (Hennepin County)

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Guntallwon Karloyea Brown, Appellant – Case No. A17-0870: In August 2015, Minneapolis police saw appellant Guntallwon Brown engage in suspected drug dealing. During a subsequent investigative stop, an officer saw Brown shoving his hands down his pants. The police arrested Brown. At the police station, Brown took other actions that indicated that he was trying to conceal narcotics up his rectum. A strip search revealed clear plastic sticking out of Brown’s anus.

The police obtained a warrant authorizing a search of Brown’s person for controlled substances. The warrant authorized hospital staff to “use any medical/physical means necessary to have [Brown] vomit or defecate the contents of his stomach or physically by any means necessary remove the narcotics from the anal cavity so Officers can retrieve the narcotics.” The police brought Brown to an emergency room. Eventually, a physician sedated Brown, and another physician inserted an anoscopy into Brown’s anus and used forceps to remove a plastic bag. The bag contained cocaine.

Respondent State of Minnesota charged Brown with fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance. Brown filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the medical procedures to remove the cocaine violated his constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. The district court denied the motion to suppress. A jury found Brown guilty of fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance. The court of appeals affirmed Brown’s conviction.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the search of Brown’s anal cavity pursuant to an “any means necessary” search warrant violated Brown’s constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and seizures; and (2) if the search is invalid, whether the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applies. (Hennepin County)

Nonoral: Jennifer Krumwiede, Respondent vs. Ggnsc Slayton, LLC, and Constitution State Services Company, LLC, Relators, Blue Cross Blue Shield of MN/Blue Plus, and Sanford Health, Intervenors – Case No. A18-1272: Respondent Jennifer Krumwiede injured her lower back while working for Golden Living Center Slayton. Following a hearing in November 2015, a compensation judge denied the employee’s request for approval of a proposed lumbar fusion surgery. The employee nonetheless had the fusion surgery in April 2016 and filed a new claim petition seeking reimbursement for the surgery expenses as well as disability benefits. The compensation judge concluded that the employee did not demonstrate that the surgery was reasonable and necessary. The compensation judge also denied the employee’s claims for temporary total, temporary partial, and additional permanent partial disability benefits. The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) vacated the decision of the compensation judge regarding benefits for the surgery and remanded for “specific findings regarding the compensability of the surgery as performed.” The WCCA also reversed the rulings of the compensation judge regarding disability benefits.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the WCCA exceeded the scope of its review and erred by rejecting the findings of the compensation judge. (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals)

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

Jennifer Rodriguez, Respondent vs. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., Appellant – Case No. A17-1800: While working as a school bus driver, respondent Jennifer Rodriguez was injured when a stolen vehicle crashed into the bus she was driving. The workers’ compensation insurer for her employer paid for 12 weeks of chiropractic treatment, but declined to pay for additional treatment based on the treatment parameters set forth in the workers’ compensation administrative rules.

Instead of seeking a determination regarding additional chiropractic treatment under Minn. Stat. § 176.83, subd. 5(c) (2018), Rodriguez sought basic economic loss benefits from her personal automobile insurer, appellant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. When State Farm failed to pay for the additional chiropractic treatment, Rodriguez petitioned for no-fault arbitration. The arbitrator ruled in favor of Rodriguez, but the district court vacated the arbitration award. The district court ruled that the Workers’ Compensation Act precludes no-fault benefits in this situation.

The court of appeals reversed. The court of appeals concluded that “State Farm must pay the benefits without a deduction for workers’ compensation benefits that may become payable”; however, “State Farm is entitled to reimbursement if it is determined that additional workers’ compensation benefits are payable.”

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether an employee injured in a work-related motor vehicle accident, who elected workers’ compensation benefits and received the initial maximum chiropractic benefit under the treatment parameters, may seek to recover the costs of additional chiropractic treatment from her no-fault insurer, rather than seeking a determination in the workers’ compensation system that the additional treatment is not excessive. (Hennepin County)

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Jennifer Marie Rosenbush, Appellant – Case No. A18-0377: On July 23, 2017, a sheriff’s deputy arrested appellant Jennifer Rosenbush for driving while impaired. Law enforcement obtained a warrant to obtain a blood sample from Rosenbush for chemical testing. The deputy served a copy of the warrant on Rosenbush at the hospital. The deputy told Rosenbush that it was a crime to refuse the test. Rosenbush did not respond. The deputy did not give Rosenbush an opportunity to consult with an attorney or tell her that she had the right to consult with an attorney before her blood was drawn. The deputy directed a nurse to draw a sample of Rosenbush’s blood. Analysis of the blood sample revealed an alcohol concentration of 0.113.

Respondent State of Minnesota charged Rosenbush with several offenses, including two counts of fourth-degree driving while impaired. Rosenbush filed a motion to suppress, arguing, in part, that her blood-test results should be suppressed because her right under the Minnesota Constitution to consult with an attorney before deciding whether to submit to chemical testing had been violated. The district court granted the motion to suppress. The court of appeals reversed the district court’s order.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether Rosenbush’s right to counsel under the Minnesota Constitution was violated because the deputy did not give her an opportunity to consult with an attorney before deciding whether to submit to an alcohol concentration test. (Dakota County)

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

In the Matter of the Appeal by RS Eden/Eden House of the Determination of Maltreatment and Order to Pay a Fine – Case No. A17-1604: Appellant RS Eden/Eden House operates a residential substance-use-disorder treatment facility. On February 25, 2016, Eden admitted as a resident J.W., who had a long history of opioid dependence and treatment for heroin and methamphetamine addiction, as well as bipolar disorder. J.W. had recently been discharged from detoxification in a hospital, where his physician had prescribed a medication called Suboxone to ease J.W.’s withdrawal symptoms. On March 2, J.W. decided to leave Eden. Suboxone is a controlled substance, and Minnesota Rule 4665.4600 (2017) prohibits release of controlled substances to departing residents. Accordingly, although Eden staff were concerned that J.W. might relapse into opiate use, Eden did not allow J.W. to take the Suboxone with him when he left. Eden did arrange for another medication (that was not a controlled substance) to be prescribed to J.W. to manage withdrawal symptoms. J.W. died from an overdose of “mixed-drug toxicity” 5 days after leaving Eden.

After receiving a complaint, respondent Minnesota Department of Human Services investigated, and the investigator concluded that there was a preponderance of the evidence that Eden committed maltreatment of a vulnerable adult because it failed to provide J.W. with “reasonable and necessary care or services” by either contacting J.W.’s hospital physician or seeking a waiver of Minn. R. 4665.4600. See Minn. Stat. § 626.5572, subds. 15, 17(a) (2018). Eden appealed, and an administrative law judge (ALJ) issued a recommendation reversing the maltreatment determination. The Commissioner of Human Services modified the ALJ’s findings and conclusions and rejected the ALJ’s recommendation, finding that Eden had committed maltreatment and imposing a statutory fine of $1,000.

On petition for writ of certiorari, the court of appeals affirmed the Commissioner’s decision on the basis that Eden should have made efforts to contact J.W.’s hospital physician, who could have assisted J.W. to obtain Suboxone after he left Eden.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether Eden’s failure to attempt to confer with J.W.’s hospital physician supports a determination of maltreatment by neglect. (Minnesota Department of Human Services)

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Murad Mowaffak Mohammad, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0386909 – Case No. A17-1920: An attorney discipline case that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based on the facts of the matter.