This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).






Michael LaNasa, claimant,


State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company,


Filed June 7, 2005


Peterson, Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File No. MC045668


James M. Sherburne, Sherburne Law Offices, P.A., 200 South Sixth Street, Suite 1450, Minneapolis, MN  55402 (for appellant)


Kay Nord Hunt, Lommen, Nelson, Cole & Stageberg, P.A., 2000 IDS Center, 80 South Eighth Street, Minneapolis, MN  55402; and


David J. Hoekstra, Brett W. Olander & Associates, 100 Fifth Street Center, 55 East Fifth Street, St. Paul, MN  55101 (for respondent)



Considered and decided Peterson, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Klaphake, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


This appeal is from a district court order granting respondent’s motion to vacate a no-fault arbitration award.  We affirm.


            Appellant Michael LaNasa was injured in an automobile collision during the course and scope of his employment with HealthEast/St. Joseph’s Hospital.  Appellant’s medical bills and wage loss were paid by his employer’s workers’ compensation insurer.  After receiving 104 weeks of temporary-total-disability benefits, appellant claimed that he was temporarily partially disabled and sought ongoing rehabilitation assistance from his employer.  The employer alleged that appellant was no longer disabled and, therefore, was not entitled to any rehabilitation assistance.  Appellant and his employer entered into a stipulation for settlement under which the employer paid appellant $21,000.  The settlement provides that the $21,000 payment

shall constitute a full, final and complete settlement of any and all past, present or future claims under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act, including but not limited to, temporary total disability, temporary partial disability, permanent partial disability, permanent total disability, rehabilitation and/or retraining, interest, psychological/psy-chiatric care and counseling, penalties, chiropractic care, treatment and expense, nursing services, household remodeling, or any other benefit [appellant] may be entitled to or claim to be entitled to arising out of the accident . . . with the sole exception of reasonable and necessary causally related non-chiropractic and non-psychological/non-psychiatric medical treatment and expense subject to the maximum fee schedule and Minn. Stat. § 176. 

Appellant accepted the $21,000 payment “in full, final and complete settlement of any and all claims he may have against the Employer herein, past, present or future, arising out of the alleged injuries . . . with the sole exception of non-chiropractic and non-psychological/non-psychiatric care, treatment, and expense.” 

            After settling his workers’ compensation claim, appellant sought wage-loss benefits under his automobile insurance policy for wages lost from February 14, 2003, until he became employed on January 19, 2004.  Respondent State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company denied appellant’s wage-loss claim, alleging that the workers’ compensation settlement foreclosed appellant’s eligibility for no-fault, wage-loss benefits.  Appellant’s claim was arbitrated, and the arbitrator determined that appellant’s claims for temporary total disability after the date that workers’ compensation temporary-total-disability benefits were exhausted were properly submitted to respondent.  The arbitrator determined that workers’ compensation temporary-total-disability benefits were no longer available to appellant, not because of his workers’ compensation settlement, but because there is a 104-week statutory maximum for receiving temporary-total-disability benefits, and appellant’s benefits had been exhausted.  The arbitrator concluded that because the workers’ compensation benefits were no longer available to appellant, there was not a duplication of benefits that undermined the priority system for workers’ compensation and no-fault benefits and awarded appellant his wage-loss claim plus interest and costs.

Respondent moved to vacate the arbitration award, and a hearing was held in district court.  The district court concluded that because the workers’ compensation settlement was a full, final, and complete settlement of any and all past, present, or future claims, under Am. Family Ins. Group v. Udermann, 631 N.W.2d 424 (Minn. App. 2001), review denied (Minn. Sept. 25, 2001), appellant is precluded from recovering no-fault, wage-loss benefits.  Therefore, the district court vacated the arbitration award.  This appeal followed.


            Under Minnesota’s No-Fault Automobile Insurance Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 65B.41-.71 (2002), an arbitrator has authority to find facts and apply the law to those facts in awarding, suspending, or denying no-fault benefits.  Gilder v. Auto-Owners Ins. Co., 659 N.W.2d 804, 807 (Minn. App. 2003).  An arbitrator’s findings of fact are final.  Barneson v. W. Nat’l Mut. Ins. Co., 486 N.W.2d 176, 177 (Minn. App. 1992).  When applying the law to the facts, an arbitrator has authority to decide a legal question, but the arbitrator’s legal determination is subject to de novo review by the district court.  Gilder, 659 N.W.2d at 807.  The party seeking to vacate an arbitration award “has the burden of proving the invalidity of the arbitration award.”  Nat’l Indem. Co. v. Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., 348 N.W.2d 748, 750 (Minn. 1984).

Application of a statute to undisputed facts involves a question of law, and the district court’s decision is not binding on this court.  O’Malley v. Ulland Bros., 549 N.W.2d 889, 892 (Minn. 1996).  Statutory construction is also a question of law, which this court reviews de novo.  Brookfield Trade Ctr., Inc. v. County of Ramsey, 584 N.W.2d 390, 393 (Minn. 1998).

The workers’ compensation act and the no-fault act are to be read harmoniously. Raymond v. Allied Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 546 N.W.2d 766, 767 (Minn. App. 1996), review denied (Minn. July 10, 1996).  Workers’ compensation benefits are primary, but not exclusive; the law requires that an injured worker seek benefits from a responsible workers’ compensation insurer before looking to his or her no-fault insurer for benefits.  Minn. Stat. § 65B.61, subd. 1.  Disability-income-loss benefits under a no-fault policy are payable only to the extent that they exceed corresponding workers’ compensation benefits.  Minn. Stat. § 65B.61, subd. 2.  Therefore, “when an employee receives benefits under both systems, the no-fault benefits are reduced by the amount of workers’ compensation benefits paid.”  Klinefelter v. Crum and Forster Ins. Co., 675 N.W.2d 330, 337 (Minn. App. 2004).  If workers’ compensation benefits are not paid when no-fault benefits are due, the no-fault benefits must be paid without deduction, and, to avoid double recovery by the injured party, the no-fault insurer has a right to reimbursement for benefits overpaid.  Minn. Stat. § 65B.54, subd. 3.

In Udermann, an employee who suffered a work-related injury entered into a full, final, and complete settlement with the workers’ compensation insurer of any and all claims for chiropractic benefits.  631 N.W.2d at 425.  The employee incurred additional chiropractic expenses and sought recovery for these expenses from his no-fault carrier.  Id. at 426.  The employee argued that as a result of the settlement, chiropractic expenses were no longer payable under the workers’ compensation law, and, therefore, he should be allowed to recover the chiropractic expenses from his no-fault insurer.  Id. at 427.  This court determined that

[b]ecause workers’ compensation benefits are primary with respect to no-fault benefits and because [the injured employee] entered into a settlement with the workers’ compensation carrier that compensated him for chiropractic expenses and defeated [the no-fault insurer’s] reimbursement rights, [the injured employee] is precluded from recovering no-fault benefits for chiropractic expenses.


Id. at 427-28.

Appellant argues that unlike Udermann, his workers’ compensation settlement did not compensate him for any outstanding wage-loss benefits or future temporary-total-disability benefits because he had already exhausted those workers’ compensation benefits.  But this argument ignores the plain language of appellant’s settlement agreement, which states that the $21,000 payment that appellant received constitutes “a full, final and complete settlement of any and all” claims for “temporary total disability, temporary partial disability, permanent partial disability, permanent total disability, rehabilitation and/or retraining.”  The $21,000 payment compensated appellant for any claims he might have for any of these benefits.  “If a contract is unambiguous, the contract language must be given its plain and ordinary meaning, and shall be enforced by courts even if the result is harsh.”  Denelsbeck v. Wells Fargo & Co., 666 N.W.2d 339, 346-47 (Minn. 2003) (quotations and citations omitted). 

Appellant also argues that because he exhausted his wage-loss benefits under the workers’ compensation act before entering into the workers’ compensation settlement, his no-fault insurer was not entitled to be reimbursed by the workers’ compensation insurer for any wage-loss benefits, and, therefore, the settlement did not defeat the no-fault insurer’s reimbursement rights.  But this argument ignores the fact that determining whether appellant’s settlement defeated his no-fault insurer’s reimbursement rights would require the court to determine whether appellant had a claim for additional workers’ compensation wage-loss benefits, and any claim that appellant might have had[1] is one of the claims that appellant expressly settled.


[1]Appellant acknowledges that he might have been eligible for additional temporary-total-disability benefits had he made a claim for retraining, but he asserts that his claim for wage-loss benefits under his no-fault policy did not involve any retraining because, as the arbitrator found, appellant was totally disabled for the period claimed.  See Minn. Stat. § 176.102, subd. 11(b) (2002) (providing for temporary-total-disability benefits during an approved retraining plan and up to 90 days after the end of the plan if the employee is not employed during the retraining plan).