Springborg v. Wilson & Co., No. 37608

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Writing for the CourtKNUTSON; MURPHY
Citation255 Minn. 119,95 N.W.2d 598
Decision Date26 March 1959
Docket NumberNo. 37608
PartiesElmer SPRINGBORG, Respondent, v. WILSON & COMPANY, Inc., Relator.

Page 598

95 N.W.2d 598
255 Minn. 119
Elmer SPRINGBORG, Respondent,
v.
WILSON & COMPANY, Inc., Relator.
No. 37608.
Supreme Court of Minnesota.
March 26, 1959.

Page 599

Syllabus by the Court.

Where an employer files a notice of discontinuance of compensation and the requisite medical reports under M.S.A. § 176.241, the duty rests on the Industrial Commission to promptly hear and determine the right to further compensation. Pending the investigation and hearing of the matter, the duty of the employer to pay compensation is suspended. Failure to pay compensation during such suspended period of time furnishes no grounds for the imposition of a penalty under § 176.225.

J. Frank Boyles, Minneapolis, for relator.

Douglas Hall, Minneapolis, for respondent.

KNUTSON, Justice.

Certiorari to review a decision of the Industrial Commission assessing a penalty against employer under M.S.A. § 176.225.

Elmer Springborg was employed as an electrician at relator's plant in Albert Lea, Minnesota. On December 31, 1952, he was injured when a trolley ran off the end of an overhead rail and struck him on the head. Employer, who was self-insured, commenced payments promptly and has paid substantial amounts for compensation, medical and hospital benefits, and traveling expenses. On May 26, 1954, employer[255 Minn. 120] served a notice of discontinuance of payments on the commission. Objections were filed by employee. On July 6, 1954, employee filed a petition for change of physicians, and on July 19, 1954, the commission appointed a neutral physician. Thereafter, employee was examined and attended by doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Promptly upon the filing of the report of such doctors, employer again commenced payment of compensation on or about August 27, 1954, without waiting for any order from the commission requiring it to do so.

Page 600

On September 22, 1954, employee filed a petition for the imposition of penalty under § 176.225, alleging a consistent pattern of abuse and neglect of employer, consisting of: (1) Failure to give prompt first-aid treatment; (2) delay in correct diagnosis of his injury; (3) attempts by employer to minimize his injuries and to prematurely put employee back to work; (4) delays in furnishing medical treatment; (5) improper attempts to withhold benefits in order to collect an unrelated claim from employee; (6) improper and unjustified discontinuance of payments on May 21, 1954; (7) failure to provide adequate medical care and treatment; and (8) failure to pay proper travel allowances and medical expenses. On November 8, 1954, the commission, without hearing testimony, by the unanimous decision of the three members of the commission at that time, denied the petition for imposition of penalty. On review here, we remanded, holding that, upon request of employee, he was entitled to a hearing before a referee. The matter then was referred by the commission to a referee, who, after a hearing, made the two following pertinent findings:

'VII.

'That in May of 1954 the employer discontinued compensation payments to the employe upon notice as provided by M.S.A. 176.34 1 and filed a doctor's report therewith. The employer resumed payments upon receipt of report from a doctor of the Mayo Clinic in the month of August, 1954.

[255 Minn. 121] 'VIII.

'That this employer did not institute any proceedings or defense which did not present a real controversy, nor was there frivolous, unreasonable, vexatious delay of payment or neglect or refusal to pay or intentional underpayment of any compensation.'

Based on such findings, the referee denied the petition for imposition of penalty.

Upon appeal to the commission, the above two paragraphs were set aside, and in place thereof the commission found:

'VII.

'That on May 29, 1954, the employer discontinued compensation payments and did not resume payments until August 27, 1954.

'VIII.

'That said failure to pay compensation payments during said period designated in Finding VII, constitutes unreasonable delay of payments under M.S.A., Sec. 176.225.'

Based on such findings, the commission imposed a penalty of $800.

The three-member commission was divided. The two commissioners who held against employer were not members of the commission when it originally denied the petition for imposition of penalty. The commissioner who was then a member dissented in the final disposition of the case on the ground that no justification for imposing a penalty existed in this case.

In employee's petition and in the original review before us, employee made a number of serious charges, which have been set forth above and which, if substantiated by the evidence, would have justified the imposition of a penalty. In our original decision, Springborg v. Wilson & Co., 245 Minn. 489, 491, 73 N.W.2d 433, 434, we noted the charges made by employee as follows:

'Because of alleged delay in obtaining initial first aid treatment of the injury; alleged delays in later medical treatment caused by the necessity of obtaining approval from employer before a doctor could begin examination

Page 601

or treatment; the discontinuance of compensation payments during certain periods; and other alleged abuses, employee petitioned the commission asking for the imposition of a penalty upon [255 Minn. 122] employer under the terms of M.S.A. § 176.225.'

None of the matters specifically mentioned as grounds for the imposition of a penalty in our original decision were proved. The commission found, as the only ground for the imposition of a penalty, the discontinuance of payments upon notice pursuant to § 176.241. The evidence in the record before us fails to support any finding on the other grounds alleged in employee's petition. The record shows that employee was treated promptly by a number of qualified doctors, many of whom are specialists in their own line. Among them was Dr. C. C. Chatterton, of whom employee's doctor from the Mayo Clinic, Dr. J. M. Janes, was asked: 'do you know Dr. C. C. Chatterton?' And the witness answered: 'I do and have the highest regard for him.'

The question now before us has therefore narrowed down to a determination of whether the commission is at liberty to assess a penalty against an employer under § 176.225 for a delay in payments, caused by the filing of a notice of discontinuance under § 176.241, if, after a hearing, the commission determines that there is still liability.

The two sections of our statutes pertinent here, in so far as they are material, read as follows:

§ 176.225, subd. 1. 'Upon reasonable notice and hearing or opportunity to be heard, the commission or upon appeal, the supreme court may award compensation, in addition to the total amount of compensation award, of up to 25 percent of that total amount where an employer or insurer has:

'(a) instituted a proceeding or interposed a defense which does not present a real controversy but which is frivolous or for the purpose of delay; or,

'(b) unreasonably or vexatiously delayed payment; or,

'(c) neglected or refused to pay compensation; or,

'(d) intentionally underpaid compensation.'

§ 176.241. 'Subdivision 1. Where an employee claims that the right to compensation continues, or refuses to sign or objects to signing a final receipt for compensation, the employer may not discontinue payment of compensation until he notifies the industrial commission in writing of his intention to do so.

[255 Minn. 123] 'The notice to the commission shall state the date of intended discontinuance, the reason for such action, and the fact that the employee objects to the discontinuance. The notice shall be accompanied by whatever medical reports are in the possession of the employer bearing on the physical condition of the employee at the time of the proposed discontinuance.

'Subd. 2. Except where the commission orders otherwise, until the notice and reports have been filed with the commission, the liability of the employer to make payments of compensation continues.

'When the commission has received a notice of discontinuance and available medical reports, the duty of the employer to pay compensation is suspended pending an investigation, hearing, and determination of the matter by the commission as provided in the following subdivisions.

'Subd. 3. When the commission has received a notice of discontinuance, it shall immediately send the employee a copy of the notice and copies of whatever medical reports have been

Page 602

submitted in conjunction with the notice. The commission shall make an investigation to determine whether the right to compensation has terminated. If it appears from the investigation that the right to compensation may not have terminated, the commission shall schedule a hearing before the commission, or a commissioner or referee, to determine the right of the employee, or his dependent, to further compensation.

'The hearing shall be held within a reasonable time after the commission has received the notice of discontinuance. The commission shall give eight days notice of the hearing to interested parties.

'Subd. 4. When the hearing has been held, and he has duly considered the evidence, the person who held the hearing shall promptly enter an order directing the payment of further compensation or confirming the termination of compensation. Where the order confirms a termination of compensation, the commission shall notify the employer of such action. This notification relieves the employer from further liability for compensation subject to the right of review afforded by this chapter, and to the right of the commission to set aside the order at any time prior to the review and grant a new hearing pursuant to this chapter.'

[255 Minn. 124] The language of § 176.241 is clear and unambiguous. The legislature, in the enactment of this provision, gave the commission some discretion in determining whether payments should continue prior to the filing of notice and the required medical...

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3 practice notes
  • Metropolitan Sports Facilities Com'n v. General Mills, Inc., No. C1-90-123
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Minnesota
    • September 4, 1990
    ...that the legislature cannot unconditionally repeal a statute and then set a condition on that repeal, citing Springborg v. Wilson & Co., 255 Minn. 119, 95 N.W.2d 598, 604 (Minn.1959). Springborg, however, rejected a party's attempt to construe an unambiguous section of a workers' compensati......
  • Transport Leasing Corp. v. State, No. 43369
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • July 14, 1972
    ...in the same context must be presumed intentional and must be applied consistent with that intent. Springborg v. Wilson & Co., Inc., 255 Minn. 119, 127, 95 N.W.2d 598, 604 (1959). We think the nontechnical language of the statute is of such sufficient clarity as not to compel judicial defere......
  • Petition for Construction of a Lateral, In re, No. 37648
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • October 23, 1959
    ...free from ambiguity the language used by the legislature must be given its ordinary and usual meaning. Springborg v. Wilson & Co., Inc., 255 Minn. 119, 95 N.W.2d 2. It seems clear to us in the instant case that when the legislature by the 1953 amendment to § 106.521 changed the wording from......
3 cases
  • Metropolitan Sports Facilities Com'n v. General Mills, Inc., No. C1-90-123
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Minnesota
    • September 4, 1990
    ...that the legislature cannot unconditionally repeal a statute and then set a condition on that repeal, citing Springborg v. Wilson & Co., 255 Minn. 119, 95 N.W.2d 598, 604 (Minn.1959). Springborg, however, rejected a party's attempt to construe an unambiguous section of a workers' compensati......
  • Transport Leasing Corp. v. State, No. 43369
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • July 14, 1972
    ...in the same context must be presumed intentional and must be applied consistent with that intent. Springborg v. Wilson & Co., Inc., 255 Minn. 119, 127, 95 N.W.2d 598, 604 (1959). We think the nontechnical language of the statute is of such sufficient clarity as not to compel judicial defere......
  • Petition for Construction of a Lateral, In re, No. 37648
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • October 23, 1959
    ...free from ambiguity the language used by the legislature must be given its ordinary and usual meaning. Springborg v. Wilson & Co., Inc., 255 Minn. 119, 95 N.W.2d 2. It seems clear to us in the instant case that when the legislature by the 1953 amendment to § 106.521 changed the wording from......

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