Workers' Compensation

Minnesota: Attorney Fee Statutory Formula Constitutionally Ok, In Spite of No Judicial Review of Award

The Supreme Court of Minnesota held that the attorney fee statute applicable in workers’ compensation cases, Minn. Stat. § 176.081, subd. 1(a) (2012), does not violate the separation of powers by requiring employers and insurers to pay attorney fees calculated by a statutory formula not subject to judicial review. The Court observed that in an earlier decision, Irwin v. Surdyk’s Liquor, 599 N.W.2d 132, 134 (Minn. 1999), it had held that a statutory maximum on an attorney fee award violated the separation of powers because there was no final judicial review of that award, but here the issue was different; the attorney-fee award was less than the statutory maximum. The employer and carrier contended that in the absence of judicial review to ensure a fee award was not excessive, the statutory formula violated the separation of powers and was unconstitutional. The Court concluded that, as a matter of comity, it would recognize the Legislature's statutory formula as presumptively reasonable, and that absent exceptional circumstances, further judicial review of a presumptively reasonable, correctly calculated attorney-fee award was unnecessary.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is a leading commentator and expert on the law of workers’ compensation.

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance. Bracketed citations link to lexis.com.

See David v. Bartel Enters., 2014 Minn. LEXIS 636 (Nov. 26, 2014) [2014 Minn. LEXIS 636 (Nov. 26, 2014)]

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 133.04 [133.04]

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law.

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