Supreme Court Decides That Intervenors Must Appear, In Person, At Conferences and Hearings
In Sumner v. Jim Lupient Infiniti, the Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed the denial of the intervention claims as the intervenors failed to attend the hearing before the compensation judge. In the decision, the Court relied of the plain language of Minn. Stat. § 176.361, subd. 4:
Unless a stipulation has been signed and filed or the intervenor’s right to reimbursement has otherwise been established, the intervenor shall attend all settlement or pretrial conferences, administrative conferences, and the hearing. Failure to appear shall result in the denial of the claim for reimbursement.
The Court opined that the use of the word “shall” to describe the attendance requirement, creates a mandatory duty for intervenors to attend all settlement or pretrial conferences, administrative conferences, and the hearing. In turn, the first sentence of subdivision 4 requires intervenors “to be present at” conferences and hearings.
The Court next discussed the penalty for an intervenor’s failure to comply with the mandatory duty to attend conferences and hearings. Again, pursuant to the plain language of Minn. Stat. § 176.361, subd. 4, the court concluded that the penalty for failing to appear for conferences and hearings is the denial of the claim for reimbursement.
The Court does note two (and “only” two) exceptions to the personal appearance requirement. First, pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 176.361, subd. 4, attendance is not necessary when the parties have signed and filed a stipulation establishing the intervenor’s right to reimbursement. Second, when an insurer or self-insured employer fails to return a signed stipulation or fails to object to the intervention motion within 30 days, the intervenor’s right to reimbursement “is deemed established,” which relieves the intervenor of its obligation to appear at conferences and hearings. In Sumner, neither exception applied and, in turn, the compensation judge did not err when he denied the intervenor’s claims for reimbursement.
The Court declined to address the June 19, 2014 Standing Order of the Office of Administrative Hearings Granting Attendance at Settlement Conference Via Telephone as the intervenors were completely absent from the hearing and, in turn, the issue as to whether an intervenor may appear telephonically or by some other medium was not before the Court.
The decision can be found here.