In Minnesota, employees might win repayment for attorney fees in a workers’ compensation case. The Minnesota Supreme Court determined this on November 30, 2022, in the case of Lagasse v. Horton et al.
The case involved an injured employee, Larry Horton. The compensation judge awarded Lagasse fees. However, the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) reversed the decision, claiming that “no genuine dispute” existed between the parties and Mr. Horton deserves no fees. However, the Minnesota Supreme Court disagreed and ruled in favor of the relator seeking his attorney fees.
What is a genuine dispute?
The court also analyzed the statutory meaning of “genuine dispute” and determined that it means an authentic conflict or controversy. Statutes demand that the other party admit, deny or affirmatively defend against the claim. The dispute must exist after an employer or insurer has had adequate time and information to take a position on liability.
When do attorney fees require repayment?
The court also clarified that Minn. Stat. 176.081, sub. 7 allows the awarding of attorney fees, which requires the attorney to procure a benefit for the employee. The WCCA erred in substituting its findings for those of the compensation judge. It is important to note that Minnesota Supreme Court also clarified the appropriate review standards in future workers’ compensation cases.
Employers in Minnesota might pay an injured employee’s attorney fees in a workers’ compensation claim if there is a genuine dispute and the employer or insurer has sufficient time and information to take a position on liability. Both employers and employees must understand the review standards in workers’ compensation cases to ensure a fair outcome.