Failure to Give Timely Notice Dooms Claim

On August 10, 2012, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued a 4-3 decision in Anderson v. Frontier Comm., A11-0834 (Minn. 2012) reaffirming an employee’s responsibility to provide timely notice of a work-related injury to his or her employer.  The trial court concluded the employee did not give notice of his Gillette back injury within in 180 days of its occurrence and his employer did not have actual notice of his Gillette back injury, thus employee’s claims for workers’ compensation benefits barred for failure to give timely notice.  The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) reversed the trial court, concluding the notice period did not begin to run until the employee’s doctors provided a causation opinion to his attorney.  The Supreme Court reversed the WCCA and reinstated the trial court’s decision.

Employee Did Not Provide Employer Timely Written Notice
The Supreme Court found the employee should have realized the seriousness of his condition and the work he did caused or aggravated his back problems, and should have reported his injury within 180 days of his realization.  The Court relied heavily on its standard from Isaacson v. Minnetonka, Inc., 411 N.W.2d 865 (Minn. 1987) stating “the information available to [the employee]—whether or not documented in [his] medical records—was that the wear and tear on his discs was the result of his work activities.”

Employer Did Not Have Actual Knowledge of Employee’s Work-Injury
The trial court judge found employee’s injury culminated on July 4, 2007; employee requested time off for back surgery in May 2007 and claimed the employer’s knowledge of the demands of the job, combined with his request for time off, constituted actual notice at that time.  Under Dickson v. Minn. Vikings Football Club, WC08-132 (WCCA September 9, 2008) an employer cannot be deemed to have actual knowledge of an injury before it occurs.  Further, the Court found his employer did not have actual notice of the injury because the employee “did not tell anyone at work his back condition related to the demands of his job” within 180 days after the injury occurred.

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