Articles Posted in South Dakota Supreme Court

by
Mark Black was hired as an agent of the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) in 2005. Approximately one decade later, DCI terminated Black’s employment after a series of incidents and disciplinary actions. The Civil Service Commission (CSC) found that DCI had just cause to terminate Black’s employment. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) CSC did not err in finding that DCI had just cause to terminate Black’s employment; and (2) DCI complied with the applicable rules and regulations and afforded Black due process of law. View "Black v. Division of Criminal Investigation" on Justia Law

by
James Mordhorst was injured while working for Fischer Furniture. Almost one year later, Dakota Truck Underwriters and Risk Administration Services (collectively, Insurers) terminated all workers’ compensation benefits. The South Dakota Department of Labor subsequently ordered Insurers to pay all past medical bills and interest as well as future medial expenses. Mordhorst then filed an action seeking punitive damages for an alleged bad-faith denial of workers’ compensation benefits. The circuit court granted Insurers’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action upon which relief could be granted. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred by granting Insurers’ motion to dismiss because Mordhorst asserted facts that, if true, state a claim for bad faith denial of a workers’ compensation claim and that Insurers’ reliance on an independent medical examiner’s report to deny benefits was not per se reasonable. View "Mordhorst v. Dakota Truck Underwriters" on Justia Law

by
James Leach, a South Dakota attorney who represents clients in workers’ compensation cases, petitioned the Department of Labor for a declaratory ruling regarding the application of a statute under which the Department excludes discretionary bonuses from the earnings used to calculate an injured worker’s average weekly wage. The Department issued a declaratory ruling that discretionary bonuses may not be included in the wage calculation. Leach appealed. The circuit court sua sponte dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, ruling that, in the absence of an actual case, the Department was without subject matter jurisdiction to issue the declaratory ruling. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Department and the circuit court had jurisdiction to consider Leach’s petition for a declaratory ruling. Remanded to consider the appeal on the merits. View "In re Petition for Declaratory Ruling" on Justia Law

by
Adam Ray, a former employee of Granite Buick GMC, Inc., and Scott Hanna, a former employee of McKie Ford Lincoln, Inc., left their respect employment and started their own automobile dealership. Granite Buick and McKie Ford sought injunctions to enforce non-compete agreements Defendants signed during the course of their employment. After the Supreme Court reversed and remanded, the circuit court concluded that the non-compete agreements were valid but granted judgment in favor of Defendants on their affirmative defenses. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly determined (1) Ray’s covenant not to compete was fraudulently induced; and (2) McKie Ford waived its right to enforce Hanna’s covenant not to compete. View "Granite Buick GMC, Inc. v. Ray" on Justia Law

by
On December 31, 2009, Employee was injured during the scope of her employment at Employer. One week later, Employee suffered a massive intraventricular hemorrhage in her brain, which caused her to undergo brain surgery. Employer denied Employee’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits, alleging that Employee’s brain injuries were the result of a different incident on January 4, 2010. After a hearing, the Department of Labor ruled in favor of Employee, finding (1) the work-related injury was a major contributing cause of the hemorrhage and Employee’s resulting disabilities, and (2) the alleged second incident did not take place after the workplace incident as Employer claim, if it occurred at all. After the Department clarified compensable damages, the circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Department was not clearly erroneous in finding that the workplace injury was a major contributing cause to Employee’s injury and disability and that there was no second incident; and (2) the Department did not abuse its discretion in admitting the undisclosed testimony of an expert witness. View "Sorensen v. Harbor Bar, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Employee was injured at work and underwent surgery. Employee’s health insurer covered the surgery’s costs at a discounted rate. After the Department of Labor found Employer liable for Employee’s condition Employer accepted Employee’s claim and reimbursed Employee for his out of pocket expenses and reimbursed Employee’s insurer for payments it made on Employee’s behalf. Employee challenged the payment, arguing that Employer was required to pay the full medical expense without the health insurance discount. The Department concluded that Employer fulfilled its obligation. The circuit court reversed and found Employer liable for the full medical expense billed before adjustments. Employer appealed. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court and reinstated the Department’s order, holding that the Department correctly applied the law in determining that Employer satisfied its statutory reimbursement obligation. View "Whitesell v. Rapid Soft Water & Spas, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Appellant suffered work-related injuries in 2000 and received workers' compensation benefits until 2004. Appellant filed another first report of injury in 2009 based on the same injuries. Employer denied benefits. Appellant filed a petition for rehearing. The Department of Labor & Regulation, Division of Labor & Management found that S.D. Codified Laws 62-7-35.1 barred Appellant's second claim for workers' compensation benefits because more than three years had passed between the date of the last payment of benefits and the date Appellant filed a written petition for a hearing. The circuit court affirmed. Appellant appealed, arguing section 62-7-35.1 should not apply to this case because his injuries were from cumulative trauma. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the cumulative trauma doctrine did not change section 62-7-35.1's application to this case because the cumulative trauma doctrine applies to the date of injury, which is irrelevant to section 62-7-35.1. View "Schuelke v. Belle Fourche Irrigation Dist." on Justia Law

by
Appellant was injured in 2008 while working for Employer. In 2010, Appellant received an injury she believed was a "flare-up" from the earlier injury. Appellant subsequently petitioned the Department of Labor for benefits. Because Appellant's original petition did not assert that the 2010 incident caused a recurrence of her 2008 injury, Appellant amended her petition making that assertion. Employer argued that Appellant's claim was time barred under her amended petition. Appellant respondent that the claims in her amended petition related back to her original petition, which was filed before the expiration of the statute of limitations. The administrative law judge (ALJ) ruled that Appellant's claims in her amended petition did not relate back to her original petition and granted summary judgment to Employer. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded with direction that the ALJ allow Appellant's amended petition to relate back to the date of her original petition, holding that to not allow Appellant to proceed on a claim that all parties agreed was a recurrence of her 2008 compensable work-related injury because Appellant failed to posture her request for relief in her original petition as a recurrence contravened the spirit of the state's worker's compensation laws. View "Waterman v. Morningside Manor" on Justia Law

by
The South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation, Unemployment Insurance Division disqualified Plaintiff from unemployment insurance benefits based on Plaintiff's alleged failure, without good cause, to accept work she was capable of performing. After Plaintiff missed a telephonic hearing on her appeal, an ALJ entered an order of dismissal and denied Plaintiff's request to reopen for failure to show good cause. The circuit court affirmed, concluding that the Department did not err in refusing to reopen Plaintiff's claim. The Supreme Court affirmed dismissal, holding that Plaintiff did not provide evidence of untimely receipt of her notice of the hearing to carry her burden to show good cause, and therefore, Plaintiff received sufficient due process. View "Eiler v. Dep't of Labor & Regulation" on Justia Law

by
Claimant worked for more than ten years as a diesel mechanic for Employer. Claimant had several incidents while working for Employer which he claimed caused neck, back, shoulder, and arm pain. Claimant later submitted a workers' compensation claim and three first reports of injury. Claimant then petitioned the Department of Labor, which denied Claimant workers' compensation benefits based on its finding that Claimant failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that his employment was a major contributing cause of his current condition and need for treatment. The circuit court affirmed but slightly modified the Department's decision. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Claimant established by a preponderance of the evidence that his employment was a major contributing cause of his current condition and need for treatment. Remanded. View "Smith v. Stan Houston Equip. Co." on Justia Law