DOUGLAS S. DEUTZ, Employee/Petitioner, v. LONE WOLF LOGISITICS, INC., and GREAT WEST CASUALTY CO., Employer-Insurer.
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COURT OF APPEALS
NOVEMBER 15, 2010
VACATION OF AWARD. The employee’s petition to vacate is denied where he has failed to establish cause as required by Minn. Stat. § 176.461.
Petition to vacate award on stipulation denied.
Determined by: Stofferahn, J., Wilson, J., and Pederson, J.
Attorneys: Douglas S. Deutz, pro se Petitioner. Richard W. Schmidt, Cousineau McGuire, Minneapolis, MN, for the Respondents.
DAVID A. STOFFERAHN, Judge
The employee has petitioned to vacate a stipulation that was the subject of an award issued on October 20, 2009. We find cause has not been shown and the petition is denied.
Douglas Deutz, who has been pro se in this matter, and his employer, Lone Wolf Logistics, and its insurer, Great West Casualty Company, entered into a workers’ compensation settlement in October 2009.
The stipulation for settlement indicates that the employee was working for Lone Wolf Logistics on October 3, 2006. He claimed he had a work injury on that date that resulted in fractures to his left hand and a left rib. The employee was treated at Hennepin County Medical Center and also saw Dr. Gary Kosel some weeks later for his hand fracture. In the stipulation, the employee also claimed that he was entitled to payment for medical expenses as well as possible wage loss and other benefits.
Lone Wolf Logistics and its insurer denied that the employee’s injury was work-related. They claimed that the employee was in an altercation with police officers after a traffic stop on October 3, 2006, and that the resulting injuries were due to the employee’s personal behavior and not his work duties. They also alleged that the employee had failed to give notice of his injury as required by Minn. Stat. § 176.141 and that he had not sustained any disability from the incident on October 3, 2006.
In the stipulation, the employer and insurer agreed to pay an outstanding bill at Hennepin County Medical Center of about $1,400.00 and also agreed to pay the employee $1,500.00. In return, the employee agreed to waive all workers’ compensation claims, past, present and future, resulting from the October 3, 2006, injury. The stipulation was approved and an award was issued on October 20, 2009.
On July 28, 2010, the employee filed a petition to vacate the settlement with this court. In his petition, he alleged the reasons for vacating the settlement as being fraud, mutual mistake of fact, and newly discovered evidence. The employer and insurer have objected to the petition.
The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals has the authority to vacate an award on stipulation but may only do so if there is “cause.” Minn. Stat. § 176.461. Cause is defined in the law and is limited to: 1. a mutual mistake of fact, 2. newly discovered evidence, 3. fraud, or 4. an unanticipated substantial change in the employee’s medical condition. Each one of these words or phrases has been the subject of a number of decisions from this court and from the Minnesota Supreme Court and these decisions set the framework for our review of the employee’s petition. It is the obligation of the petitioner, in this case the employee, to provide the court with information or evidence that would allow us to conclude that there is cause to vacate the settlement. Sherva v. St. Regis Paper Co., No. WC07-118 (W.C.CA. Oct. 2, 2007).
In the information he sent with his petition and in later correspondence, the employee states that he was working for Lone Wolf Logistics when he was stopped by Minnetonka police on October 3, 2006. Apparently he was stopped because of a possible, earlier traffic incident. The employee says he was not allowed to answer questions, was tasered, and was handcuffed and then taken by police to Hennepin County Medical Center and subsequently to jail. He claims he suffered his injuries during this process. He states he was released without any court appearance. The employee believes that the actions of the police were totally inappropriate and that he was the innocent victim of police brutality. This court is not going to decide what happened on October 3, 2006, or if the employee’s version of the incident is accurate. Whether the employee was treated inappropriately by the police or whether instead the altercation occurred because the employee was belligerent and failed to cooperate, is not relevant to our decision.
Simply put, there was a dispute between the employee and the employer and insurer over whether or not he was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits as the result of the incident on October 3, 2006. The parties agreed to resolve that dispute by a settlement. The employee was not forced or compelled to enter into a settlement. He could have insisted on his right to go to a hearing before a compensation judge if he thought that he was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Instead, he decided, along with the employer and insurer, to settle his case without a trial. In the settlement papers, the employee answered “yes” to a number of questions and initialed his answers as well. The employee stated in the settlement that he wanted to settle this case without the assistance of a lawyer. He affirmed that the settlement was fair and reasonable and understood that it was a final settlement. The employee has not provided this court with any information on why his answers were incorrect at that time.
The employee does not argue that there was a mistake of fact. Rather, his argument is that the employer and insurer should have accepted his version of the facts. While the employee may now regret his decision to settle this case, there is no mutual mistake of fact as required by law. Shelton v. Schwan’s Sales Enters., 53 W.C.D. 110 (W.C.C.A. 1995).
Similarly, there is no showing of fraud in the information presented to us. Fraud requires an intentional effort to mislead a party. Weise v. Red Owl Stores, Inc., 286 Minn. 199, 175 N.W.2d 184 (1970). There is no information from the employee or an argument that the employer and insurer made any sort of misrepresentation to him. We find no fraud here.
There is also no newly discovered evidence in this case. Newly discovered evidence is evidence that existed at the time of the dispute but was not known by the parties. Gruenhagen v. Larson, 310 Minn.454, 246 N.W. 2d 565 (1976). The employee’s argument is that his version of the incident on October 3, 2006, should have been accepted by the employer and insurer. This is not newly discovered evidence but is simply the employee re-arguing the position that he made at the time of the settlement.
The employee has not provided this court with evidence that cause as required by law exists to vacate the settlement. His petition is denied.