When is a Statute NOT a Statute and Rule NOT a Rule?

lawThe Minnesota Workers Compensation statute is its own little fiefdom. It governs every single aspect of Minnesota Workers Compensation law. It micromanages not only the substance of the law but the procedures by which it is practiced and enforced. Except when it doesn’t.

Minn. Stat. Section 176.471 governs what happens when a party loses an appeal in front of the Workers Compensation Court of Appeals. It is the process by which a party may have the case reviewed by the Supreme Court. The statute actually requires that the Supreme Court review the case, at least to some extent. They must issue an order of some type. They can simply affirm the WCCA without an opinion or issue a written opinion without the parties’ participation in an oral argument or grant an oral argument and issue a published opinion thereafter.

The question is what happens if the appealing party does not follow the statute and ignores the procedure as required by 176.471? BLF, PA currently has a case before the Court in which that is the very issue: If a party fails to follow the procedures mandated by the statute are they then precluded from their appeal or is it a no harm, no foul situation? We shall soon find out.

The statute states:

“The party shall serve a writ and a bond upon the administrator of the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals within the 30-day period        referred to in subdivision 1.

Another Minnesota Statute that defines word and phrases frequently used in the law defines the word “Shall” as “mandatory”. Thus, the question becomes: what happens if you fail to execute a mandatorily required part of the statute? Can you claim no harm, no foul or are there actual ramifications? The ramifications if the Court chooses the former over the latter are obvious. Attorneys would see it as an opportunity to ignore the precisely worded phrases used by the legislature to create the law because the Court might give them a pass after the fact if they can claim they caused “no prejudice” to the other party. It would eliminate any certainty about anything in the law. We are hoping the Court enforces the statute.

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