This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
James E. Fennert,
Medtox Laboratories Inc. (1996),
Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development,
Filed November 9, 2004
Reversed and remanded
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File No. 17060 03
Diane Marie Dube, Daniel L. McGarry (certified student attorney), William Mitchell Law Clinic, 875 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105 (for relator)
Stephanie D. Sarantopoulos, Littler Mendelson, Suite 3110, 33 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent Medtox Laboratories Inc. (1996))
Lee B. Nelson, Linda A. Holmes, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Wright, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
In this certiorari appeal from the denial of unemployment benefits, James Fennert seeks reversal or, alternatively, a remand to consider evidence of incapacity. Because the department acknowledges that remand is appropriate, and we conclude that subsequently acquired medical records are material to determining whether Fennert lacked capacity, we reverse and remand.
F A C T S
D E C I S I O N
In the de novo review of the ULJ’s decision, the commissioner’s representative has the responsibility to make findings of fact and a decision or to “remand the matter back to an unemployment law judge for the taking of additional evidence and the making of new findings and decision based on all the evidence.” Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd. 2(c) (Supp. 2003). For the limited purpose of deciding whether to remand to an ULJ for a further evidentiary hearing, a commissioner’s representative may consider evidence not submitted at the previous hearing. Id., subd. 2(d). In reviewing the ULJ’s decision and a request for submission of additional evidence, the commissioner’s representative has an obligation to recognize and interpret claims of individuals who are unrepresented by counsel. Miller v. Int’l Express Corp., 495 N.W.2d 616, 618 (Minn. App. 1993).
The transcript of the hearing before the ULJ discloses that Fennert had substantial difficulty in presenting his evidence. He repeatedly attempted to explain the effects of his medication and the nature of his condition, but the explanation lacked coherence. The lack of coherence was underscored by the ULJ’s repeated requests for documentation of Fennert’s medical condition. In response, Fennert only provided an insurance form, a list of prescribed medicines, and a doctor’s note.
Fennert’s conduct at the hearing, coupled with the information in the medical records detailing Fennert’s specific deficits, suggests a lack of capacity at the time of the driving incident and at the time of the hearing. The indication of a medical condition that would affect Fennert’s ability to express himself at the hearing is particularly significant in light of the duty owed to Fennert as an unrepresented applicant. Minn. R. 3310.2921; Thompson v. County of Hennepin, 660 N.W.2d 157, 161 (Minn. App. 2003) (addressing the “duty to reasonably assist pro se parties with the presentation of evidence and the proper development of the record”).
The commissioner’s representative did not address Fennert’s request to submit additional evidence and rejected the request for remand. The medical records that were submitted as a basis for the remand request are material in that they provide a fuller record for a determination of whether Fennert was working under a disability or impairment which would weigh against the allegation of misconduct.
Consistent with Fennert’s and the department’s request, we remand to the commissioner’s representative to remand in turn to a ULJ for the purpose of admitting and considering Fennert’s medical records. Although Medtox opposes remand, the importance of providing a full and fair hearing and to develop a complete record outweighs any inconvenience to the employer. In light of the remand, we do not address Fennert’s remaining arguments on the determination of employment misconduct.
Reversed and remanded.