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Judge Allows Trial for Obstruction of Workers’ Compensation Benefits
A recent decision by a federal judge in Minnesota will allow a trial to go forward in a case involving an injured worker who claims her employer lied to avoid paying workers’ comp benefits.

A federal appeals court ruled recently to allow a workers’ compensation lawsuit to proceed to trial in a case involving a Minnesota law that permits workers to sue their employers and other entities for obstructing an employee’s access to workers’ compensation benefits in “a manner that is outrageous and extreme, or egregiously cruel and venal.”

The workers’ compensation case in question involves a claim by Heather A. Nunn, an employee of Noodles & Co., who was injured in a motorcycle crash while en route to an off-site meeting after her shift had ended. According to court records, Nunn had requested that the meeting be rescheduled because she had already made plans for after work, but was told by her supervisor that she must attend the meeting. While traveling to the meeting by motorcycle, Nunn was struck by a car and suffered injuries resulting in medical bills of over $250,000.

Employer Lied About Purpose of Off-Site Meeting

After Nunn filed a workers’ compensation claim for her injuries, court records show that Nunn’s supervisors at Noodles were directed by their insurer, Zurich American Insurance Co., to characterize the meeting as a social gathering rather than a work meeting, in order to avoid having to pay for the workers’ compensation claim.

Despite being informed that Nunn’s supervisor had called the off-site meeting to discuss work issues, Zurich denied Nunn’s workers’ compensation claim, asserting that she had been traveling to a social happy hour when the accident occurred. The disputed claim proceeded to trial, where a judge ruled that Nunn’s injuries arose in the course of employment and that she was therefore entitled to receive benefits.

After the court determined that she was eligible for workers’ compensation, Nunn filed a separate lawsuit in federal court alleging that Noodles and Zurich had obstructed her efforts to obtain benefits. The lower court dismissed her case, but the recent decision by the appeals court will allow it to continue.

If you have questions about your right to receive workers’ compensation benefits for a work-related injury or illness in Minnesota, contact an attorney with a strong background in workers’ compensation law.

Keywords: workers' compensation
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