PAMELA SUE BAKER, Employee, v. HONEYWELL, INC., SELF-INSURED/SEDGWICK CLAIMS MGMT. SERVS., Employer, and STATE FARM MUT. AUTOMOBILE INS. CO., Intervenor/Appellant, and BROOK WEST CHIROPRACTIC CLINIC, Intervenor.
WORKERS= COMPENSATION COURT OF APPEALS
MAY 28, 2002
MEDICAL TREATMENT & EXPENSE; SUBROGATION; STATUTES CONSTRUED - MINN. STAT. § 176.061, subd. 3. Minn. Stat. ' 176.061, subd. 3, does not give an employer or workers= compensation insurer a right of subrogation against an injured employee=s no-fault benefits. The compensation judge, therefore, erred in denying the no-fault intervenor=s claim for reimbursement of medical expenses paid on behalf of the employee.
Determined by: Johnson, C.J., Wilson, J., and Pederson, J..
Compensation Judge: Jennifer Patterson
THOMAS L. JOHNSON, Judge
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm) appeals the compensation judge=s denial of its claim for reimbursement of medical expenses. We reverse.
On October 17, 1984 and April 8, 1988, Pamela Sue Baker, the employee, sustained injuries while working for Honeywell, Inc., the employer, self-insured for workers= compensation liability. The employer admitted liability for both injuries and paid the employee various workers= compensation benefits.
On October 9, 1996, the employee was injured in a non-work automobile accident. She sought treatment at Brook West Chiropractic Clinic with Thomas Trainer, D.C., who had been her treating chiropractor since November 1991. Dr. Trainer opined that from October 9, 1996 through February 1988, the employee=s need for treatment was entirely due to her non-work car accident. From February 1998 through November 1999, the last time Dr. Trainer saw the employee, he opined the work injury and the non-work car accident contributed equally to the employee=s need for treatment. Between February 1998 and November 1999, Dr. Trainer charged $800.00 for the care and treatment provided to the employee. State Farm paid this bill under the no-fault provisions of its automobile insurance policy with the employee. Based on Dr. Trainer=s apportionment opinion, the self-insured employer reimbursed State Farm $400.00.
The employee filed a claim petition seeking temporary partial disability benefits. State Farm intervened seeking reimbursement of the balance of the $400.00 it paid in no-fault medical expenses to Dr. Trainer. In a Findings and Order filed December 7, 2001, the compensation judge denied the intervenor=s claim for reimbursement. State Farm appeals.
Minn. Stat. ' 65B.61 provides, in relevant part:
Basic economic loss benefits shall be primary with respect to benefits, except for those paid or payable under a Workers= Compensation Law, which any person receives or is entitled to receive from any other source as a result of injury arising out of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle.
Thus, Aworkers= compensation medical benefits should be considered primary under ' 65B.61, subd. 1, in relation to no-fault medical expense benefits.@ Record v. Metropolitan Transit Comm=n, 284 N.W.2d 542, 546, 32 W.C.D. 161, 167 (Minn. 1979). The compensation judge concluded the 1984 and 1988 personal injuries were a substantial contributing cause of the employee=s need for medical care and treatment from February 1998 through November 1999. Accordingly, the self-insured employer is primarily liable for the $800.00 in medical expenses incurred for treatment with Dr. Trainer during that period.
The compensation judge found the self-insured employer and the no-fault carrier were each 50 percent responsible for the medical expenses at issue. The compensation judge, however, stated the self-insured employer had a subrogation claim against the no-fault carrier under Minn. Stat. ' 176.061, subd. 3. The judge concluded that to order full reimbursement to the no-fault carrier would then allow the self-insured employer to institute a subrogation claim against the no-fault carrier to recover 50 percent of the medical expenses. Such a result, the judge reasoned, would only cause needless litigation. Accordingly, the compensation judge denied the intervenor=s reimbursement claim.
The right of an employer or its workers= compensation insurance carrier to subrogation is specifically limited by Minn. Stat. ' 176.061 to third party tort-feasors. Subrogation, under the statute, is limited to damages based on tort liability and does not include sums received by the injured employee under an uninsured motorists policy. Janzen v. Land O=Lakes, Inc., 278 N.W.2d 67 (Minn. 1979); Cooper v. Younkin, 339 N.W.2d 552 (Minn. 1983). Nor does Minn. Stat. ' 176.061 give a workers= compensation insurer the right to obtain reimbursement from a no-fault carrier for workers= compensation benefits mistakenly paid when no-fault benefits should have been paid. Backhauls, Inc. v. Thake, 393 N.W.2d 427 (Minn. App. 1986). Similarly, we conclude Minn. Stat. ' 176.061 does not give an employer or workers= compensation insurer a right of subrogation against an injured employee=s no-fault benefits. The decision of the compensation judge is, therefore, reversed. The self-insured employer is ordered to reimburse State Farm the balance of State Farm=s reimbursement claim.
 Basic economic loss benefits include medical expenses. Minn. Stat. ' 65B.44.