This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).







Floyd Louis Hanson,





Michelle Ann Stodolka,





State of Minnesota, et al.,





Filed June 5, 2007

Klaphake, Judge


Stearns County District Court

File No. C0-03-4122



John M. Steele, 300-1/2 Clifton Avenue, Carriage House, Minneapolis, MN  55403 (for appellant)


Erica Gutmann Strohl, Lenae M. Pederson, Meagher & Geer, P.L.L.P., 33 South Sixth Street, Suite 4400, Minneapolis, MN  55402 (for respondents State of Minnesota, et al.)


            Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Willis, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant Floyd Hanson injured his right shoulder, back, and neck in an automobile accident on January 13, 2002, while in the course of his employment as a state trooper.  Appellant brought a tort action against Michelle Stodolka, the driver of the vehicle that caused the accident, and the parties reached a global settlement of $250,000.  Appellant challenges the district court’s order and judgment allowing respondent, the State of Minnesota, to recover a statutorily derived portion of the $110,724.72 that he received in workers’ compensation benefits for disability, rehabilitation costs, and certain medical expenses.  Because the district court did not err in determining the amount of paid workers’ compensation benefits that were recoverable by the state, we affirm. 


            At an injured employee’s request, the district court has the authority to allocate between the employer and the employee, the proceeds from the employee’s settlement with a third-party tortfeasor.  Henning v. Wineman, 306 N.W.2d 550, 552-53 (Minn. 1981).  If the employee chooses to have the district court make this determination rather than receive a statutory allocation of one-third of the total settlement amount after certain deductions, the district court allocates the proceeds between those recoverable and nonrecoverable under the Workers’ Compensation Act.  The court then applies the statutory formula to the recoverable damages to determine the amount that should be allocated to the employee and the employer.  Id. at 552; Minn. Stat. § 176.061, subd. 6 (2006). 

            We will affirm a settlement allocation made by the district court “if [it] appear[s] reasonable in the light of the total award to the plaintiff[] . . . [and] not patently arbitrary.”  Krause v. Merickel, 344 N.W.2d 398, 403 (Minn. 1984) (quotation omitted).  We review the district court’s findings of fact for clear error, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the district court’s decision.  Rogers v. Moore, 603 N.W.2d 650, 656 (Minn. 1999); Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01.  Resolution of conflicting evidence is a determination to be made by the district court.  Porch v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp., 642 N.W.2d 473, 477 (Minn. App. 2002), review denied (Minn. June 26, 2002).             

            Appellant claims that the state failed to offer evidence supporting the district court’s determination that $110,724.42 of the $250,000 settlement award was recoverable by the state.  After the accident, appellant underwent two shoulder surgeries.  Because the first surgery was medically recommended before the accident, the district court found that this surgery was not causally related to the accident and that workers’ compensation benefits for this surgery were not recoverable by the state.  Appellant claims that the medical records and testimony also fail to establish a causal link between the second shoulder surgery and the accident.  The district court, however, found that this second surgery was causally connected to the accident and was therefore recoverable by the state. 

            The issue of “[w]hether an injury occurred at work is a factual determination, depending to a large extent on the credibility attached by the trier of fact to the testimony of the various witnesses.  The assessment of witness’ credibility is the unique function of the trier of fact.”  Skowron v. Simer Pump Co., 509 N.W.2d 160, 161 (Minn. 1993); see Felton v. Anton Chevrolet, 513 N.W.2d 457, 459 (Minn. 1994) (“Until the time comes when medical knowledge has progressed to such a point that experts in the field of medicine can agree, causal relation in determining compensable injury or disease will have to remain in the province of the trier of fact.”).      

            Appellant insists that the second surgery should be nonrecoverable by the state because an independent medical examiner concluded that while “the etiology of the second [surgery] is unclear,” neither of his two shoulder surgeries was “necessitated by the motor vehicle accident.”  Other record evidence, however, supports the district court’s decision.  Appellant and his treating physicians provided evidence that appellant’s right shoulder function following the accident was impaired to the extent that he could not work after the accident, that his right shoulder pain increased after the accident, and that these new conditions were not relieved by the first surgery.  After the second surgery, which the state notes corrected a new problem—the anterior labrum rather than the “frayed” superior labrum that had been corrected during the first surgery—appellant’s condition improved, even by his own admission.  Under these circumstances, the district court’s findings and conclusions were reasonable.   

            In a related argument, appellant claims that disability payments he received after the first right shoulder surgery and until the time of his second right shoulder injury and the rehabilitation costs from the surgeries should also be nonrecoverable by the state because both shoulder surgeries should be nonrecoverable.  Because there is record support for the district court’s determination that the second shoulder surgery was necessitated by appellant’s work injury and the court’s findings and conclusions on this issue are reasonable in light of the evidence and total award, these arguments are without merit.      

            Appellant further claims that the state failed to meet its burden of proof to establish the amount of recoverable costs that the state paid out after the accident, and that the district court “overlooked” the state’s failure to carry its burden of proof.  Although the record does not include specific medical bills, it does include the third-party payor’s[1] statements to the state regarding payment of these bills, which enumerate the dates of the bills, the dates of treatment, and the payees.  This evidence, in conjunction with the medical reports and the state’s summary of payments, is sufficient to establish the state’s recoverable costs.  See Morehouse v. Geo. A. Hormel & Co.,313 N.W.2d 8, 10 (Minn. 1981) (findings related to sufficiency of proof in workers’ compensation case need be “supported by sufficient competent evidence”).      

            Appellant also appears to raise other procedural issues regarding the state’s burden of proof.  Because these claims are embedded in the fact section of appellant’s brief and are not fully articulated, we are under no duty to consider or address them in our decision.  See State, Dep’t of Labor & Indus. v. Wintz Parcel Drivers, Inc., 558 N.W.2d 480, 480 (Minn. 1997) (declining to reach legal issues in “absence of adequate briefing”).



[1] Initially, Comprehensive Managed Care was the third-party payor of appellant’s medical bills, but in July 2005, Corvel Corporation became the third-party payor of appellant’s medical bills.  According to the affidavit of Vandaly Kratochvill, a workers’ compensation employee responsible for administering appellant’s benefits, the state never received actual medical bills for appellant.