FOR WANT OF A BOND, AN APPEAL WAS LOST – Minnesota Supreme Court Rejects Appeal from Employer/Insurer Because They Failed to Serve a Cost Bond as Required By Statute

In Dennis v. Salvation Army, slip op., (W.C.C.A. April 8, 2015), the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) considered whether an employee sustained an injury arising out of and in the course of his employment.  Dennis, while taking a paid break, sustained an injury while crossing the street to reach a designated smoking area.  When considering whether the injury arose out of Dennis' employment, the WCCA accepted and adopted the compensation judge's utilization of the “street risk doctrine” and affirmed his award of compensation.  Under the street risk doctrine, if an employee enters a street while in the service of his employer, any injuries he sustains arising from common public or “street” risks arise out of his employment.  The WCCA held that the Supreme Court's adoption of the “increased risk test” in Dykhoff did not abolish the street risk doctrine and the holding in Dykhoff must be applied on a case-by-case basis.  Finally, it reaffirmed that Minnesota's workers' compensation laws cover injuries sustained during reasonable paid breaks from work.

The Employer and Insurer in Dennis appealed the WCCA's decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court.  On February 3, the Minnesota Supreme Court dismissed their appeal because they did not timely serve a cost bond upon the WCCA as required by Minn. Stat. § 176.471.  Dennis v. The Salvation Army (Minn. 2016).  In its decision, the Supreme Court emphasized that if a cost bond is not served upon the WCCA, the certiorari appeal is not accomplished and the Supreme Court has no statutory authority to decide it. The Supreme Court considered several arguments presented by the Employer and Insurer that the failure to serve the cost bond did not doom the appeal, but the Court rejected all of them.  In doing so, it cited a long line of cases where it dismissed appeals from the WCCA because the appealing party failed to comply with the strict statutory requirements for perfecting an appeal.

Because they dismissed the appeal, the Supreme Court did not have an opportunity to further review and explain how and under what circumstances the increased risk test in Dykhoff should be applied.  The Dennis case re-emphasizes the importance of fulfilling statutory filing requirements at each level of a claim and, especially, on appeal.