Lawson v. North Dakota Workmen's Compensation Bureau, No. 11415

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
Writing for the CourtGIERKE; ERICKSTAD; PEDERSON, S.J., sitting in place of MESCHKE
PartiesRichard D. LAWSON, Appellee, v. NORTH DAKOTA WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION BUREAU, Appellant. Civ.
Decision Date30 June 1987
Docket NumberNo. 11415

Page 344

409 N.W.2d 344
Richard D. LAWSON, Appellee,
v.
NORTH DAKOTA WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION BUREAU, Appellant.
Civ. No. 11415.
Supreme Court of North Dakota.
June 30, 1987.

Page 345

Pringle & Herigstad, Minot, for appellee; argued by Lynn M. Boughey.

Clare R. Hochhalter, Asst. Atty. Gen., Workmen's Compensation Bureau, Russel Building, Bismarck, for appellant.

GIERKE, Justice.

The North Dakota Workmen's Compensation Bureau (Bureau) appeals from a decision by the Northwest Judicial District Court, finding that the Bureau's determination of its obligation for costs under Sec. 65-01-09, N.D.C.C., is unlawful. We affirm.

In August 1984, Richard D. Lawson (Lawson) was injured while employed as a roughneck for Kent Drilling Company, Williston, North Dakota. Shortly thereafter, Lawson filed a claim with the Bureau which was accepted and received benefits totalling $53,662.73.

Lawson then initiated a lawsuit against a third party for his injury, which he settled for $200,000.00. Lawson incurred a bill of $3,433.07 for costs expended in the prosecution of his third-party claim. Lawson informed the Bureau of the settlement and total costs and, in response to this notice, the Bureau computed its subrogation interest and requested reimbursement pursuant to Sec. 65-01-09, N.D.C.C. The Bureau's computation revealed:

"Total Third Party Recovery ..... $200,000.00
                "Costs in Third Party Recovery .. $ 3,433.07
                "Bureau's Subrogated Interest in Third Party Recovery:
                Suspended Benefits .................. $ 46,337.27
                Expended Benefits ................... $ 53,662.73
                Bureau's Total Subrogated Interest .. $100,000.00
                "Net Amount Suspended Benefits:
                Total Suspended Benefits ....... $ 46,337.27
                Less Bureau's attorney's fees .. $ 11,584.32
                Less Bureau's costs ............ $ 795.44
                Net suspended Benefits ......... $ 33,957.51
                "Net Reimbursement to Bureau for Expended Benefits:
                Total Expended Benefits ........ $ 53,662.73
                Less Bureau's attorney's fees .. $ 13,415.68
                Less Bureau's costs ............ $ 921.10
                Reimbursement to Bureau ........ $ 39,325.95"
                

After Lawson received the Bureau's computation, a dispute arose over the Bureau's authority to prorate and apportion its obligation, under Sec. 65-01-09, N.D.C.C., to pay fifty percent of the costs that Lawson had incurred in prosecuting his third-party claim.

Lawson contested the Bureau's apportionment and proration of costs, asserting that the Bureau is required, under Sec. 65-01-09, N.D.C.C., to pay fifty percent of the costs incurred in prosecuting a third-party lawsuit. Therefore, Lawson reduced its reimbursement to the Bureau by $795.44. The Worker's Compensation Commissioners issued an administrative order rejecting Lawson's contention that he was entitled to the full compensation of fifty percent of the litigation costs and ordered that the disputed $795.44 be remitted to the Bureau. Lawson appealed the Commissioners' order to the district court. The district court reversed the administrative order and held that Lawson was entitled to the balance of the costs. This appeal followed.

In the instant action, we are asked, once again, to review the validity of the Bureau's formula in computing its subrogation interest under Sec. 65-01-09, N.D.C.C. See, Blaskowski v. North Dakota Workmen's Compensation Bureau, 380 N.W.2d 333 (N.D.1986); Kelsh v. North Dakota Workmen's Compensation Bureau, 388 N.W.2d 870 (N.D.1986); and State by Workmen's Compensation Bureau v. Clary, 389 N.W.2d 347 (N.D.1986). The issue on appeal is whether Sec. 65-01-09, N.D.C.C., grants the Bureau authority to apportion and prorate its obligation to pay costs incurred by an employee in prosecuting a claim against a third party. The pertinent language contained in Sec. 65-01-09, N.D.C.C., states:

"When an injury or death for which compensation is payable under provisions of

Page 346

this title shall have been sustained under circumstances...

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4 practice notes
  • Holmgren v. North Dakota Workers Compensation Bureau, No. 890307
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • April 25, 1990
    ...with the view of extending its benefit provisions to all who can fairly be brought within them. Lawson v. Workmen's Comp. Bureau, 409 N.W.2d 344 (N.D.1987); Syverson v. Workmen's Comp. Bureau, 406 N.W.2d 688 (N.D.1987); Claim of Bromley, 304 N.W.2d 412 (N.D.1981); Morel v. Thompson, 225 N.W......
  • Haugenoe v. Workforce Safety and Ins., No. 20070099.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • April 22, 2008
    ...this provision to create an incentive for workers to pursue and litigate third-party claims. Lawson v. N.D. Workmen's Comp. Bureau, 409 N.W.2d 344, 347 [¶ 11] We already established in Polucha, 60 N.D. 159, 233 N.W. 264, that an injured worker is entitled to benefits for the aggravation of ......
  • Effertz v. North Dakota Workers' Compensation Bureau, No. 910113
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • February 4, 1992
    ...award. On appeal, we review the decision of the Bureau, rather than that of the district court. Lawson v. Workmen's Comp. Bureau, 409 N.W.2d 344 (N.D.1987). However, the district court's analysis is entitled to respect if its reasoning is sound, Domek v. N.D. State Personnel Bd., 430 N.W.2d......
  • Toso v. Workforce Safety and Ins., No. 20050143.
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • April 3, 2006
    ...for the worker to pursue and litigate legal claims against culpable third parties." Lawson v. N.D. Workmen's Compensation Bureau, 409 N.W.2d 344, 347 (N.D.1987) (citations omitted). Most significantly, we noted "the purpose and intent of Title 65, N.D.C.C., is to protect the injured worker ......
4 cases
  • Holmgren v. North Dakota Workers Compensation Bureau, No. 890307
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • April 25, 1990
    ...with the view of extending its benefit provisions to all who can fairly be brought within them. Lawson v. Workmen's Comp. Bureau, 409 N.W.2d 344 (N.D.1987); Syverson v. Workmen's Comp. Bureau, 406 N.W.2d 688 (N.D.1987); Claim of Bromley, 304 N.W.2d 412 (N.D.1981); Morel v. Thompson, 225 N.W......
  • Haugenoe v. Workforce Safety and Ins., No. 20070099.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • April 22, 2008
    ...this provision to create an incentive for workers to pursue and litigate third-party claims. Lawson v. N.D. Workmen's Comp. Bureau, 409 N.W.2d 344, 347 [¶ 11] We already established in Polucha, 60 N.D. 159, 233 N.W. 264, that an injured worker is entitled to benefits for the aggravation of ......
  • Effertz v. North Dakota Workers' Compensation Bureau, No. 910113
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • February 4, 1992
    ...award. On appeal, we review the decision of the Bureau, rather than that of the district court. Lawson v. Workmen's Comp. Bureau, 409 N.W.2d 344 (N.D.1987). However, the district court's analysis is entitled to respect if its reasoning is sound, Domek v. N.D. State Personnel Bd., 430 N.W.2d......
  • Toso v. Workforce Safety and Ins., No. 20050143.
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • April 3, 2006
    ...for the worker to pursue and litigate legal claims against culpable third parties." Lawson v. N.D. Workmen's Compensation Bureau, 409 N.W.2d 344, 347 (N.D.1987) (citations omitted). Most significantly, we noted "the purpose and intent of Title 65, N.D.C.C., is to protect the injured worker ......

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