ROGER L. LONG, Employee/Appellant, v. CAROL A. SCHLUSSLER and CREDIT GENERAL/MIGA/GAB ROBINS, Employer-Insurer.
WORKERS= COMPENSATION COURT OF APPEALS
AUGUST 29, 2002
JURISDICTION - NON-RESIDENT; JURISDICTION - OUT-OF-STATE INJURY; STATUTES CONSTRUED - MINN. STAT. ' 176.041, SUBD. 2. Where the employee had been injured in California, and where the compensation judge had reasonably concluded that the employer=s business was not localized in Minnesota and that the employee was not a Minnesota resident and did not regularly perform the primary duties of his job in Minnesota, the compensation judge=s conclusion that Minn. Stat. ' 176.041, subd. 2, did not apply to extend Minnesota subject matter jurisdiction over the employee=s work injury was not clearly erroneous and unsupported by substantial evidence.
Determined by Pederson, J., Wilson, J., and Johnson, J.
Compensation Judge: Jennifer Patterson.
WILLIAM R. PEDERSON, Judge
The employee appeals from the compensation judge=s determination that Minnesota has no subject matter jurisdiction over the employee=s claim for workers= compensation benefits. We affirm.
Carol A. Schlussler [the employer], a Wisconsin resident, owned a truck and operated it as an independent contractor under an owner-operator agreement with Dart Transit, Inc. [Dart], a Minnesota corporation. Dart paid the employer by the mile. Because federal regulations limit the number of hours an over-the-road trucker may drive per day, the employer decided to hire a co-driver in order to enhance the earnings from her truck. In July of 1999, the employer telephoned an acquaintance, Roger L. Long [the employee], a resident of Saginaw, Michigan, and offered him a job as a Ateam driver@ with her. The employee accepted the offer of employment during that telephone call. After accepting the employer=s job offer, the employee went to Dart=s office in Eagan, Minnesota, where he completed an application for approval as a driver, passed a federally required physical examination, passed a federally required driving test administered by Dart, and attended a Dart safety orientation class.
According to the employee=s uncontroverted testimony, all drivers of Dart trucks had to be approved by Dart and had to agree to follow Dart=s rules, but the employee had no other contractual or any employment relationship with Dart. The employee indicated that, from the time he began team driving with the employer on July 20, 1999, he maintained a post office box and a storage space for his personal belongings in Saginaw, Michigan. He indicated that he did not obtain a Minnesota address, and he did not pay income taxes to Minnesota. Nor, evidently, did the employer have either a business address in Minnesota or a business account at a Minnesota bank. Dart apparently paid the employer for her hauling by crediting what was known as an AESF account,@ on which the employer could write a check. The employer usually paid the employee in cash or would authorize the employee to withdraw money himself directly from the ESF account. Occasionally the employer paid the employee by check from her personal checking account in Wisconsin. The employer did not withhold state or federal income taxes from sums paid to the employee.
Also according to uncontroverted testimony, the employer hauled exclusively for Dart, and ninety-nine percent of the employer=s runs began in Minnesota. The employer=s contract with Dart was to do long-distance trucking to other states and not to move goods from one Minnesota location to another. During the period of employment here at issue, a typical trucking run for the employer would begin in Minnesota and would involve one to five weeks on the road in other states, with multiple deliveries and pickups all over the country, each delivery and pickup dispatched by Dart in Minnesota. Only a small percentage of the total miles covered on any one-to-five-week hauling run were on Minnesota highways. Between runs, while Ms. Schlussler went home to Wisconsin, the employee stayed either at a motel in Wisconsin or at a motel or truck stop in Minnesota.
On March 2, 2000, the employee sustained an admitted work injury while on a run in California, in the course of his employment with the employer. On that date, the employee was sixty years old and was earning a weekly wage of at least $600.00. The employer and its workers= compensation insurer commenced payment of benefits under the Minnesota Workers= Compensation Act, and they evidently continued to pay benefits until serving a Notice of Intention to Discontinue [NOID] on February 28, 2001, on grounds that A[p]ayments are continuing, but now being paid as Wisconsin benefits as this claim should be paid under Wisconsin jurisdiction rather than Minnesota.@
An administrative conference regarding the proposed discontinuance was held on March 6, 2001. In an Order issued March 9, 2001, a compensation judge determined that reasonable grounds existed to discontinue the employee=s benefits under the Minnesota Workers= Compensation Act, noting that the employee Ais currently being paid benefits voluntarily by WISF [Wisconsin Insurance Security Fund] under Wisconsin law.@ On March 16, 2001, the employee filed an Objection to Discontinuance. The issue came on for hearing before a compensation judge on November 30, 2001. In a Findings and Order issued January 10, 2002, the judge determined that benefits had been paid to the employee in Minnesota under a mistake of fact and law and that Minnesota has no subject matter jurisdiction over the employee=s work injury of March 2, 2000. The employee appeals.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
In reviewing cases on appeal, the Workers= Compensation Court of Appeals must determine whether Athe findings of fact and order [are] clearly erroneous and unsupported by substantial evidence in view of the entire record as submitted.@ Minn. Stat. ' 176.421, subd. 1 (1992). Substantial evidence supports the findings if, in the context of the entire record, Athey are supported by evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate.@ Hengemuhle v. Long Prairie Jaycees, 358 N.W.2d 54, 59, 37 W.C.D. 235, 239 (Minn. 1984). Where evidence conflicts or more than one inference may reasonably be drawn from the evidence, the findings are to be affirmed. Id. at 60, 37 W.C.D. at 240. Similarly, A[f]actfindings are clearly erroneous only if the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.@ Northern States Power Co. v. Lyon Food Prods., Inc., 304 Minn. 196, 201, 229 N.W.2d 521, 524 (1975). Findings of fact should not be disturbed, even though the reviewing court might disagree with them, Aunless they are clearly erroneous in the sense that they are manifestly contrary to the weight of the evidence or not reasonably supported by the evidence as a whole.@ Id.
As a general rule, injuries which occur outside of Minnesota are not subject to the Minnesota Workers= Compensation Act. Minnesota Statutes ' 176.041, subdivision 5a, provides that, A[e]xcept as specifically provided by subdivisions 2 and 3, injuries occurring outside of this state are not subject to this chapter.@ Moreover, case law has established that extraterritorial application of the Minnesota Workers= Compensation Act Ais limited by the terms of the statute itself. Thus, whether [the employee=s] injury is compensable under the Minnesota Workers= Compensation Act will depend on whether the circumstances of [the employee=s] employment and injury fall within the applicable statute=s extraterritorial application provisions.@ Morrisette v. Harrison Int=l Corp., 486 N.W.2d 424, 427, 46 W.C.D. 721, 724 (Minn. 1992).
On appeal, rather than relying on a specific statutory provision, the employee contends that, because the employee=s employment relationship was centered in Minnesota, the compensation judge erred in concluding that Minnesota has no jurisdiction over the employee=s work injury. The employee relies on the case of Vaughn v. Nelson Bros. Constr., 520 N.W.2d 395, 51 W.C.D. 159 (Minn. 1994). In Vaughn, the supreme court interpreted Minnesota Statutes ' 176.041, subdivision 3, to extend coverage to traveling or Atransient@ employees injured out of state, where their employer-employee relationships are centered in Minnesota. The court noted that, A[a]lthough the quantity of time an employee spends in a single locale may be a factor in the determination of the situs of the employment relation, it should not be controlling.@ Vaughn v. Nelson Bros. Constr., 520 N.W.2d 395, 397, 51 W.C.D. 159, 162 (Minn. 1994). The court found it determinative that the facility that controlled Mr. Vaughn and his assignments was located in Minnesota, that Mr. Vaughn=s paycheck was issued from Minnesota, that Mr. Vaughn would travel to Minnesota for administrative tasks, and that Mr. Vaughn=s employment had not become centralized or fixed in another state.
In the present case, the employee argues (1) that the situs of his employment was in Minnesota, at Dart Transit in Eagan, (2) that the facility that controlled him and determined his assignments was in Minnesota, (3) that the source of his remuneration was in Minnesota, (4) that his qualification requirementsBthe physical examination, the driver=s tests, and the safety orientation classBwere completed in Minnesota, and (5) that his employment was not centralized in another state. In fact, he contends, his only connection to Wisconsin was that the employer lived there. We are not persuaded.
Pursuant to an uncontested finding of the compensation judge, the employee did not have a direct contractual or employment relationship with Dart. Unlike the the employee in Vaughn, who was hired in Minnesota by a Minnesota employer, the employee in the present case was evidently not hired in Minnesota, and his employer, Ms. Schlussler, was evidently a Wisconsin employer. At Finding 10, contested on appeal, the compensation judge concluded that the employee was hired for the purpose of delivering goods to locations outside Minnesota, that he performed a majority of his truck driving in states other than Minnesota, and that,
[a]lthough 99% of the runs began in Minnesota, only the initial loads were picked up from warehouses in Minnesota, and all of the other loads picked up and delivered during the run involved loading the truck in states other than Minnesota. Only a small percentage of the miles driven during a one to five-week run involved Minnesota highways.
Apparently on these grounds, the judge found further that Athe employer=s business was not localized in Minnesota.@ At Finding 14, also contested on appeal, the judge concluded further that,
[b]ecause the employee was never a Minnesota resident; was hired while in Michigan by a Wisconsin employer for the purpose of delivering goods to locations outside Minnesota; performed a majority of his truck driving in states other than Minnesota; was paid by his Wisconsin employer; and never filed a Minnesota income tax return, he did not regularly perform the primary duties of his job in Minnesota.
These conclusions, like those in Finding 10, are supported by the substantial evidence of testimony at hearing. In light of all of these conclusions, and reiterating the fact that the employee was injured in California, the judge concluded finally, also in Finding 14, that AMinn. Stat. ' 176.041, subd. 2, does not apply to the facts of this case@ and that AMinnesota has no subject matter jurisdiction over the employee=s work injury of March 2, 2000.@
Although this is arguably a close case, the judge=s findings of fact and her conclusion of law are supported by substantial evidence in the record. Under the facts of this case, the judge reasonably concluded that Minnesota has no subject matter jurisdiction over the employee=s claim. Accordingly, we affirm. Hengemuhle v. Long Prairie Jaycees, 358 N.W.2d 54, 37 W.C.D. 235 (Minn. 1984).
 The issue of the employee=s exact weekly wage has been reserved for possible later determination.
 Minnesota Statutes ' 176.041, subdivisions 2 and 3, provide as follows:
Subd. 2. Extraterritorial application. If an employee who regularly performs the primary duties of employment within this state receives an injury while outside of this state in the employ of the same employer, the provisions of this chapter shall apply to such injury. If a resident of this state is transferred outside the territorial limits of the United States as an employee of a Minnesota employer, the resident shall be presumed to be temporarily employed outside of this state while so employed.
Subd. 3. Temporary out-of-state employment. If an employee hired in this state by a Minnesota employer, receives an injury while temporarily employed outside of this state, such injury shall be subject to the provisions of this chapter.
 These were also the conclusions of the compensation judge, albeit in the context of a contested finding.