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Ekdahl v. Indep. Sch. Dist. #213: On Award Offsets in Workers’ Comp

Ekdahl v. Indep. Sch. Dist. #213, an appeal from the Supreme Court of Minnesota, involved a relator injured while working for the respondent, an independent school district. The relator applied for permanent total disability and was awarded the workers’ compensation rating. The term “relator” is essentially the same as the term “plaintiff” in the context of this case. One distinction is that relators often sue organizations on behalf of another organization or the government in what is know as a Qui Tam lawsuit.

230578_hospital_6.jpgAs your workplace injury attorney can explain, permanent total disability is a type of rating that an injured worker can be given when applying for benefits. This is one of the highest ratings for the purposes of obtaining a workers’ compensation award.

In Ekdahl, the respondent school district requested that the amount awarded to the relator be offset (reduced) because the injured worker had already received compensation under a government-service pension, and a state statute provided for any old age and survivor insurance benefits.

The workers’ compensation court denied the respondent’s request for an offset. The reason for this denial was that the judge found that there was evidence that the disability pension was an old age or survivor insurance benefit.

The school district appealed this decision, claiming that the offset requisitions should have been given. On appeal, the court looked at the issue of the language of the statute as well as public policy implications behind the relator being able to recover from both sources.

Ultimately, the court of appeals held that that the employee was not entitled a full award, and the case was reversed and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. The court’s reasoning was that the state law expectation involving retirement pensions only applies to federal benefits.

While this single source recovery rule is one of the tenants of the workers’ compensation program, there are some exceptions. First, we should look at the reason workers’ compensation exists. Employers wanted this program so they would not be exposed to excessive liability if an employee who is injured on the job sues for negligence. Under the workers’ compensation program, the employee cannot bring a negligence action against the employer, because he or she can collect by submitting a claim.

The advantage to the injured worker is that he or she does not need to prove negligence on behalf of the employer. If the worker is injured on the job, that should be enough to collect a workers’ compensation award. This award is intended to compensate a worker for lost wages and any medical bills resulting from the injury.

One exception to this rule is if the employer engaged in serious misconduct that caused the worker’s injuries. Another exception to the rule against filing a lawsuit after an on-the-job injury is when the claimant was injured by the negligence of a third party.

We typically see this situation when a worker was injured on the job in a car accident. The worker may be able to bring a civil suit against the at-fault driver.

If you are injured on the job in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your workers’ compensation claim: 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Ekdahl v. Indep. Sch. Dist. #213, August 18, 2014, Minnesota Court of Appeals

More Blog Entries:

Fowler v Vista Care – Court Declines to Limit Access to Workers’ Compensation, June 28, 2014.