TIMOTHY L. ROBERTS, Employee/Appellant, v. UNIVERSITY OF MINN. HOSP. AND CLINIC, SELF-INSURED/CRAWFORD & CO., Employer, and HARTFORD INS. CO. and MEDICA/HEALTHCARE RECOVERIES, INC., Intervenors.
WORKERS= COMPENSATION COURT OF APPEALS
AUGUST 28, 2002
APPEALS - TIME FOR APPEAL; JURISDICTION - SUBJECT MATTER. A motion for reconsideration of an otherwise dispositive decision or order does not act to extend the time for appeal from that decision or order. Because the employee did not appeal from the compensation judge=s order to dismiss on a timely basis, the Workers= Compensation Court of Appeals lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the appeal.
Determined by Wilson, J., Johnson, C.J., and Stofferahn, J.
Compensation Judge: Jeanne K. Knight.
DEBRA A. WILSON, Judge
The employee appeals from the compensation judge=s denial of his motion to rescind an order for dismissal of his claim petition. We dismiss the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
On March 2, 1995, the employee filed a claim petition alleging entitlement to certain benefits due to an injury, in the nature of hepatitis C, that he allegedly sustained in the course and scope of his employment with the University of Minnesota Hospital and Clinic [the employer]. The self-insured employer denied primary liability for the claimed injury. In April of 1999, the matter was struck from the trial calendar to allow the employee time to obtain a new attorney. A year later, during a May 2000 pretrial hearing, the employee=s second attorney apparently notified the compensation judge that he was withdrawing from the case for health reasons, and, by order issued July 11, 2000, the matter was struck from the trial calendar yet again, with a warning to the employee that the matter would be dismissed if it were not reinstated for trial within six months.
In January of 2001, the employer filed a motion for dismissal based on the employee=s failure to have the matter reinstated or to prosecute his claim. By order issued January 24, 2001, a compensation judge struck the matter yet again from the active court calendar for a six-month period. At some point, the employee consulted attorney Ted Dooley, who delayed decision as to whether to represent the employee pending further investigation of the claim. In the interim, the parties and their attorneys, together with Mr. Dooley, were served with a ANotice of Pretrial on Motion to Dismiss Claim Petition,@ setting a July 30, 2001, hearing date. The hearing was evidently held as scheduled, but it appears that Mr. Dooley did not attend in that he had not yet commenced formal representation of the employee. In any event, on November 31, 2001, the employer filed a letter, to the compensation judge, indicating that the employee had still not substantiated his claim of representation by Mr. Dooley or provided medical support for his claimed work injury. Asserting that the judge had ruled that the dismissal motion could be renewed under these circumstances, the employer Are-ma[d]e@ its motion to dismiss. Copies of this letter were sent to the employee and to the employee=s prior attorneys, but not to Mr. Dooley.
On December 5, 2001, the compensation judge issued an order dismissing the employee=s claim petition on grounds that the employee had failed to take steps to reinstate the case on the active trial calendar. The affidavit of service indicates that the order was served on both the employee and Mr. Dooley. In response, on December 13, 2001, Mr. Dooley, on behalf of the employee, served and filed a motion to rescind or revoke the order of dismissal and to set the matter for a settlement conference. In an affidavit attached to the motion, Mr. Dooley indicated that the employee had signed a retainer agreement on November 20, 2001, that a notice of appearance was served that same day, and that the employee now had a report from an independent medical examiner establishing the causal connection between his employment and the alleged work injury.
Several months later, by letter dated March 5, 2002, Mr. Dooley asked the compensation judge when she anticipated ruling on his motion. Shortly thereafter, on March 14, 2002, the judge issued an order denying the motion to rescind the order of dismissal. In her order, the judge indicated that no notice of representation had been filed by Mr. Dooley Auntil the Motion to Rescind was filed@ and that, given the history of the case, the employee had not established any basis for reconsideration of the dismissal.
On April 5, 2002, the employee appealed from the judge=s order denying recission of the dismissal order, contending that that order and Athe order for dismissal itself@ were erroneous.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
A[A] decision which rests upon the application of a statute or rule to essentially undisputed facts generally involves a question of law which [the Workers= Compensation Court of Appeals] may consider de novo.@ Krovchuk v. Koch Oil Refinery, 48 W.C.D. 607, 608 (W.C.C.A. 1993).
The compensation judge=s December 5, 2001, order effectively constitutes a dismissal with prejudice because, as of the date of that order, the statute of limitations had run on the employee=s claim. See Minn. Stat. ' 176.151; Demars v. Robinson King Floors, Inc., 256 N.W.2d 501, 30 W.C.D. 109 (Minn. 1977). On appeal, the employee raises several issues with respect to the legal propriety of the judge=s dismissal order. Whatever the merits of the employee=s position, see, e.g., Michaelson v. Hamline Twin City Real Estate Co., 42 W.C.D. 964 (W.C.C.A. 1990), we are compelled to conclude that we lack subject matter jurisdiction over the appeal.
Minn. Stat. ' 176.421, subd. 1, provides as follows:
Subdivision 1. Time for taking; grounds. When a petition has been heard before a compensation judge, within 30 days after a party in interest has been served with notice of an award or disallowance of compensation, or other order affecting the merits of the case, the party may appeal to the workers= compensation court of appeals on any of the following grounds:
(1) the order does not conform with this chapter; or
(2) the compensation judge committed an error of law; or
(3) the findings of fact and order were clearly erroneous and unsupported by substantial evidence in view of the entire record as submitted; or
(4) the findings of fact and order were procured by fraud, or coercion, or other improper conduct of a party in interest.
The service and filing requirements of the statute are jurisdictional. See, e.g., Bjerga v. Maislen Transp., 400 N.W.2d 99, 39 W.C.D. 309 (Minn. 1987); Carpenter v. Woodvale, Inc., 400 N.W.2d 727, 39 W.C.D. 430 (Minn. 1987); Kearns v. Julette Originals Dress Co., 267 Minn. 278, 126 N.W.2d 266, 23 W.C.D. 127 (1964).
In the present case, the employee filed an appeal from the order denying recission within the statutory 30-day period. However, he did not appeal from the original dismissal order on a timely basis, and it was that original dismissal order, not the order denying recission, that was the Aorder affecting the merits of the case@ specified by Minn. Stat. ' 176.421, subd. 1. Nothing in the workers= compensation act suggests that a party may extend the time for appeal by filing a motion for reconsideration of an otherwise dispositive order. See also Limongelli v. Gan Nat=l Ins. Co., 590 N.W.2d 167, 168 (Minn. App. 1999) (a motion to reconsider does not toll any deadlines, including appeal deadlines); Welch v. Commissioner of Public Safety, 545 N.W.2d 692, 695 (Minn. App. 1996) (generally, motions to vacate or amend do not extend the time to appeal from the underlying order of judgment); In re: Welfare of D.B., 463 N.W.2d 301, 302-03 (Minn. App. 1990) (a motion to reconsider, vacate, or amend does not extend the time for appeal); In re: Welfare of R.M., 436 N.W.2d 807, 808 (Minn. App. 1989) (motions to reconsider, vacate, or amend do not extend the time to appeal from final orders in civil matters); Knutson v. Commissioner of Public Safety, 406 N.W.2d 560, 562 (Minn. App. 1987) (an order denying a motion to vacate or amend an appealable order is not itself appealable; A[w]here there is an appealable order, the appeal should be taken from that order, rather than from a subsequent order denying [a] motion to vacate the first order, which was not appealed from within the statutory period@).
Allowing the motion for recission to extend the appeal period for the underlying dismissal order would render the statutory appeal time limits essentially meaningless. Because there was no timely appeal from the compensation judge=s December 5, 2001, order, this court lacks authority to consider the merits of the case. Hemmesch v. Molitor, 328 N.W.2d 445, 447, 35 W.C.D. 541, 544 (Minn. 1983). The appeal is therefore dismissed.
 The file contains no other notice of representation by Mr. Dooley. The employer acknowledges service, however.
 The employer=s motion to dismiss the appeal, on subject matter jurisdiction grounds, was initially denied by order dated May 9, 2002. However, the court reconsidered the question following oral argument. The issue of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time. See Hemmesch v. Molitor, 328 N.W.2d 445, 35 W.C.D. 541 (Minn. 1983).