Articles Posted in Minnesota Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court in this negligence case decided not to extend the doctrine of implied primary assumption of risk, which is a complete bar to tort liability, to recreational skiing and snowboarding, thus affirming the decision of the court of appeals concluding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to Defendant. Plaintiff, a ski instructor, was struck by Defendant, an adult snowboarder performing an aerial trick, while Plaintiff was teaching a young student in an area marked “slow skiing area.” Plaintiff sued Defendant for negligence. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendant, concluding that under the doctrine of implied primary assumption of risk Defendant owed Plaintiff no duty of care. The court of appeals reversed after assuming that the doctrine of implied primary assumption of risk generally applies to actions between skiers, holding that material fact issues precluded summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed on different grounds, holding that the doctrine of implied primary assumption of risk does not extend to recreational downhill skiing and snowboarding. The Court remanded the case. View "Soderberg v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant, a Minneapolis bar, on Plaintiffs’ complaint pleading innkeeper-negligence and dram-shop claims, holding that summary judgment on both claims was improper. An off-duty employee of Defendant was fatally injured while helping other bar employees force an aggressive patron out of the bar. Plaintiffs, the decedent’s family, sued Defendant for the death. In granting summary judgment for Defendant, the district court determined (1) as to the innkeeper-negligence claim, the bar owed no duty based on the doctrine of implied primary assumption of risk; and (2) as to the dram-shop claim, the claim failed on the element of proximate cause. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the doctrine of implied primary assumption of risk does not apply to the operation and patronage of bars; and (2) there existed a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the aggressive patron’s actions were a proximate cause of the decedent’s fatal injury. View "Henson v. Uptown Drink, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the district court’s grant of summary judgment for The Blake School (the school) on Appellant’s negligence action based on a fatal accident caused by a high-school student while he was driving his cross-county teammates and a volunteer coach to an extracurricular athletic competition, holding that summary judgment was not proper under the circumstances of this case. In granting summary judgment for the school, the district court concluded that the school did not owe a duty of care to members of the general public as a matter of law. The court of appeals affirmed on a different ground, concluding that the school’s conduct did not create a foreseeable risk of injury to a foreseeable plaintiff. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the school was subject to the black-letter common-law rule that it may be liable for the negligence of others if its own conduct creates a foreseeable risk of injury to a foreseeable plaintiff; and (2) foreseeability was at least a close call, making summary judgment on the element of duty inappropriate. View "Fenrich v. The Blake School" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) that Plaintiff’s injury “arose out of” her employment under the “increased-risk” test the Court applied in Dykhoff v. Xcel Energy, 840 N.W.2d 821 (Minn. 2013). Plaintiff, an employee of Relator, fell down a set of stairs as she was leaving work. The workers’ compensation judge held that the injury did not arise out of employment. The WCCA reversed, determining that the compensation judge applied the incorrect test to determine whether the stairs were hazardous and that the correct test was whether the stairs posed an “increased risk” as opposed to a “neutral risk.” Because the stairs alone increased Plaintiff’s risk of injury, the WCCA concluded that her injury arose out of her employment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) an injury arises out of employment when there is a causal connection between the injury and the employment; and (2) applying that rule, there was a causal connection between Plaintiff’s injury on the stairway and her employment. View "Roller-Dick v. CentraCare Health System" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) that the compensation judge failed fully to consider the extent to which each of Respondent’s employers sought to shift liability to the other employer and that it was error to deny Respondent’s motion for fees under Minn. Stat. 176.191(1). In 2015, Respondent filed a workers’ compensation claim for work-related aggravations to a low-back condition resulting from a work-related injury in 2009. Between the 2009 injury and later aggravations sustained in 2014 and 2015, Respondent’s employer and its insurer changed. When Respondent sought benefits for later aggravations sustained in 2014 and 2015, her 2009-employer and her new employer disputed whether the aggravations were a continuation of the 2009 injury or subsequent injuries for which the new employer and its insurer were liable. The compensation judge held the new employer liable for reasonable benefits for the later injuries but denied Respondent’s claim for fees under section 176.191(1). The WCCA reversed the denial of the motion for fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the efforts by each employer to shift responsibility to the other employer greatly increased the burden on Respondent’s counsel to provide effective representation, and therefore, Respondent was entitled to receive reasonable attorney fees under the statute. View "Hufnagel v. Deer River Health Care Center" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the district court’s grant of partial summary judgment in favor of Father on Son’s personal injury suit, holding that the Recreational-Use Statute, Minn. Stat. 604A.20-.27, did not apply to the facts of this case. Son was injured after he fell from a deer stand on Father’s property. The district court ruled that Father was entitled to recreational-use immunity, which allowed Son to proceed to trial to seek recovery under the trespasser exception to the statute. Based solely on the trespasser theory, the jury concluded that Son was ninety-five percent negligent. The court of appeals remanded the case for a new trial, holding that because Father did not offer his land for use by the public, the Recreational-Use Statute did not apply. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that where the usage of Father’s property was limited to immediate family, section 604A.22 did not apply to this case because the land was not offered for public use. View "Ouradnik v. Ouradnik" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether an indemnity clause in a rental agreement required the renter to indemnify the rental company for the rental company’s negligence. The Tower Tap & Restaurant entered into an agreement to rent folding picnic tables from London Road Rental Center, Inc. for an event. Plaintiff injured his hip at Tower Tap’s event after one of the rented tables collapsed on him. Plaintiff sued Tower Tap and London Road. London Road filed a cross-claim against Tower Tap, seeking contractual indemnity based on the indemnity clause in the rental agreement. The district court granted summary judgment to London Road, concluding that the clause unequivocally covered liability for London Road’s own negligence. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the indemnity clause did not include express language that clearly and unequivocally showed the parties’ intent to transfer such liability to Tower Tap. View "Dewitt v. London Road Rental Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the decision of the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) upholding the decision of the compensation judge ordering that Atlas Staffing, Inc. and its insurer, Meadowbrook Claims Services, pay workers’ compensation benefits to Anthony Gist. The compensation judge found that Gist’s exposure to silica, a known cause of end stage renal disease (ESRD), during his employment with Atlas was a substantial contributing factor to his kidney disease. In the consolidated appeals brought by Appellants and Fresenius Medical Care, which treated Gist after Appellants denied coverage and accepted payments from Medicaid and Medicare for the costs of that treatment, the Supreme Court held (1) the compensation judge did not abuse her discretion by relying on a certain medical report to find that work-related silica exposure was a substantial contributing factor to Gist’s kidney failure; (2) under 42 C.F.R. 447.15, a provider cannot recover payment from third parties for any services billed to Medicaid after the provider has accepted payment from Medicaid for those services; and (3) the WCCA erred when it dismissed Fresenius’s cross-appeal as untimely. View "Gist v. Atlas Staffing, Inc." on Justia Law

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The “actual notice” provision of the Civil Damages Act, see Minn. Stat. 340A.802(2), popularly known as the Dram Shop Act, requires actual notice of sufficient facts to put a liquor licensee on inquiry notice of a possible claim, not actual notice of a possible claim. In addition, the statute’s plain language does not require notice of certain indispensable facts but, rather, requires notice only of “sufficient facts.” Lastly, actual notice to a licensee’s liquor-liability attorney is notice to the licensee under section 340A.802(2). Appellants brought claims against Respondent, a liquor licensee, under the Civil Damages Act for damages arising out of the death of Mary Jo Meyer-Buskey in an automobile accident caused by a drunk driver. The district court granted summary judgment for Respondent, finding that Appellants failed to provide timely notice of their claims and that the correspondence of Appellants’ attorney with Respondent’s liquor-liability attorney did not qualify as “actual notice” under section 340A.802(2). The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to Respondent. View "Buskey v. American Legion Post #270" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant in this action alleging that Defendant, as a landowner, violated his duty of care to his invitee, a four-year-old boy. The boy wandered off during a family party on Defendant’s property and suffered severe brain damage from a near-drowning in the Mississippi River. The district court granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the ground that the harm to the boy was not foreseeable to Defendant. The court of appeals affirmed on the ground that Defendant was not liable because the danger was “obvious” to the boy. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) there were disputed facts regarding whether the danger of swimming in the river should have been obvious to the boy; and (2) the issue of foreseeability was one to be decided by a jury. View "Senogles v. Carlson" on Justia Law