This case involved a section in the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act related to the award of attorney fees. Respondent-employee was injured during his employment with respondent-employer and sought permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits through employer’s insurer, also a respondent. Employee retained relator-attorney to represent him in the matter. Attorney sought contingent fees under Minn. Stat. § 176.081, subd. 1(c). The compensation judge found that attorney was entitled to contingent fees under subd. 1(c) and that employee was entitled to partial reimbursement of fees under subdivision 7 of the same statute. The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) reversed both rulings.
The Supreme Court held that (1) for purposes of allowable fees for legal services under the Workers’ Compensation Act, an answer to a workers’ compensation claim petition can serve as the basis for a genuine dispute under Minn. Stat. § 176.081, subd. 1(c), when it creates an authentic controversy between parties and the employer or insurer had sufficient time and information to take a position on liability; (2) the applicable standard when the Supreme Court review whether the WCCA properly substituted its own finding for a conflicting finding of the compensation judge is if there is any evidence in the record that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the compensation judge’s finding; (3) the WCCA erred in substituting its findings for those of the compensation judge because the compensation judge’s findings that a genuine dispute existed entitling the attorney to contingent attorney fees under Minn. Stat. § 176.081, subd. 1(c), were supported by substantial evidence; and (4) the standard to award additional fees under Minn. Stat. § 176.081, subd. 7, is distinct from the standard to award contingency fees under Minn. Stat. § 176.081, subd. 1(c), and whether to award fees under each subdivision must therefore be analyzed separately. Reversed and remanded.
Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals
The decision in this matter was affirmed without opinion.