may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
AMCO Insurance Company,
Filed March 30, 1999
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 986601
Timothy P. Jung, Todd L. Nissen, Peterson & Hektner, Ltd., 450 Paramount Plaza III, 7831 Glenroy Road, Minneapolis, MN 55439 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Anderson, Judge, and Holtan, Judge.[*]
Appellant AMCO Insurance Company challenges the district court's confirmation of an arbitration award to respondent Essie Peschong for her medical expenses. Respondent was allowed to arbitrate her medical expenses claim in a separate arbitration from her property damage claim, notwithstanding the fact that respondent had received some of the medical services before the first arbitration. We affirm.
Respondent was injured in a car accident in December 1996. She submitted her first petition for arbitration in February 1997, after AMCO denied her property damage claim. In May 1997, AMCO denied respondent's wage loss claim. Both the wage loss claim and the property damage were arbitrated in June 1997.
In September 1997, respondent first received notice that AMCO would not cover certain of her medical expenses. Respondent subsequently underwent an independent medical examination at the request of AMCO. AMCO thereafter denied other medical expenses. A second arbitration was held in May 1998 on disputed medical expenses.
AMCO appealed the arbitration award to the district court, arguing that respondent had impermissibly split her claim by not raising claims for medical bills incurred but not paid prior to the June 1997 arbitration in that proceeding. The district court confirmed the arbitration award, and this appeal followed.
"In cases involving the no-fault statute, arbitrators are limited to deciding the issues of fact, leaving the interpretation of the law to the courts." Hippe v. American Family Ins. Co., 565 N.W.2d 439, 441 (Minn. App. 1997) (citation omitted). The party seeking to vacate an arbitrator's award has the burden to prove that the award is invalid. National Indem. Co. v. Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., 348 N.W.2d 748, 750 (Minn. 1984).
AMCO argues that because there were two arbitrations arising from respondent's 1996 car accident, one to settle property damage and wage loss claims and a second to settle medical expense claims, respondent impermissibly split her cause of action by not arguing about certain medical expenses at the first arbitration. Appellant relies on Charboneau v. American Family Ins. Co., 481 N.W.2d 19 (Minn. 1992), to assert that respondent has impermissibly split her claim. But Charboneau dealt with the claimants seeking to avoid an existing $5,000 jurisdictional limit on no-fault arbitrations under Minn. Stat. § 65B.525 (1988) by initiating two separate arbitrations. AMCO does not contend that respondent initiated the second arbitration to evade the $10,000 arbitration ceiling.
AMCO also argues that because medical services were performed before the June 1997 arbitration, respondent had arbitrable "claims" at that time. AMCO relies on Hippe, 565 N.W.2d at 442, to argue that respondent had a "claim" of medical expenses in 1997, even though there had been no formal denial of benefits. In certain situations, an outstanding medical bill can be a "claim." Id. (determining that a claim accrues as expenses are incurred). In Hippe, the claimant knew when she filed the arbitration petition that the insurer had previously denied other medical benefits. In this case, unlike in Hippe, the only evidence of record indicates that AMCO had never denied a claim by respondent for medical expenses before the first arbitration and that, at the time of the first arbitration, respondent had not yet received bills for the services now in question. Therefore respondent had no reason to know that those bills should have been a subject of the June 1997 arbitration.
Because AMCO had not previously denied medical claims respondent had not even received bills for the medical services at the time of the first arbitration; and there is no evidence that respondent was attempting to evade the jurisdictional ceiling, AMCO failed to establish that respondent impermissibly split her cause of action. The district court did not err in confirming the arbitration award.
[*] Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.