Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in South Dakota Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of a general contractor based on the general contractor's statutory immunity under S.D. Codified Laws 62-3-10, holding that the circuit court properly concluded that workers' compensation was the sole remedy available to Appellant.Plaintiff received a work-related injury at a construction site where his employer was a subcontractor. Plaintiff received workers' compensation benefits from his employer and then filed a negligence claim against the construction project's general contractor. The general contract subsequently amended its answer to assert statutory immunity under section 62-3-10. The circuit court granted summary judgment for the general contractor, concluding that the general contractor remained potentially liable for workers' compensation under S.D. Codified Laws 62-3-10 and, because of the exclusivity provisions of section 62-3-2, workers' compensation was Plaintiff's sole remedy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in granting summary judgment for JM. View "Ries v. JM Custom Homes, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this tort suit brought against an employer by an employee the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court denying both parties' motions for summary judgment, holding that the court erred in denying the employer's motion for summary judgment.The employee in this case died after falling off the roof of a building he was working on for a subcontractor. After the employee's estate brought this tort action the employer moved for summary judgment, asserting that under S.D. Codified Laws 62-3-2, workers' compensation was the estate's exclusive remedy. In response, the estate argued that the exception to S.D. Codified Laws 52.-3-2 for intentional torts applied. The circuit court denied summary judgment for either party. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that there was no issue of material of fact in dispute on the question of whether the employer committed an intentional tort in this case. View "Althoff v. Pro-Tec Roofing, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court affirming the determination of the Department of Labor and Regulation that Appellant was not permanently totally disabled, holding that Appellant failed to sustain his claim for permanent total disability.While he was employed by Rapid City Regional Hospital (RCRH) Appellant claimed he sustained two work-related head injuries that caused ongoing mental impairments. Appellant sought workers' compensation benefits from RCRH and its insurer, but the Department denied the claim, finding (1) Appellant failed to prove his work injuries were a major contributing cause of his mental impairments, and (2) Appellant failed to establish that he was permanently disabled. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Department and circuit court properly concluded that Appellant was not permanently totally disabled. View "Baker v. Rapid City Regional Hospital" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court against Northern Rental Corporation and Steve Willis in this action stemming from the alleged breach of a lease agreement, holding that the circuit court erred in determining damages.In 2019, Northern and Willis defaulted on their lease agreement with Peska Properties, Inc. Peska Properties subsequently entered into a lease with Mills Aftermarket Accessories, Inc. to fill Willis/Northern's remaining lease term plus an additional term. Thereafter, Peska Properties brought this action against Willis/Northern requesting unpaid rent, repayment of Northern's build-out loan, payment of Mills's build-out costs, and attorney fees. The circuit court determined that Willis/Northern owed Peska Properties $68,730. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court's award was an error of law because it failed to meet the goal of a damage award. On remand, the court was directed to recalculate the build-out allowance damages. View "Peska Properties, Inc. v. Northern Rental Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Department of Labor of Regulation granting Employer/Insurer's motion for summary judgment regarding medical expenses Claimant incurred while being treated by Dr. Donald Corenman, holding that the circuit court erred in part.Employer and Insurer denied coverage for the medical expenses Claimant incurred by being treated for her back injury by Dr. Corenman. Claimant filed a petition for hearing with the Department, which granted summary judgment for Employer/Insurer as to these medical expenses. The circuit court affirmed. Claimant appealed, and Employer/Insurer filed a notice of review regarding an earlier Department ruling. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the Department erred in granting summary judgment denying compensation for Dr. Corenman's medical services. View "Dittman v. Rapid City School District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court affirming the decision of the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation (Department) concluding that it lacked jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claim seeking workers' compensation benefits, holding that the Department had the authority to adjudicate Plaintiff's claim.Plaintiff was injured in Wyoming while working at a job for Defendant, a corporation formed and headquartered in South Dakota. Plaintiff applied for and received workers' compensation benefits in Wyoming. Later, Plaintiff sought benefits in South Dakota, which has more favorable workers' compensation statutes. The South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation dismissed the petition, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that South Dakota had a substantial connection to the parties' employment relationship sufficient to provide the Department with authority to adjudicate Plaintiff's claim. View "Anderson v. Tri State Construction, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Department of Labor and Regulation determining that a copy of a letter to Appellant's insurer seeking a review of his workers' compensation benefits did not constitute a petition for a hearing, holding that the Department and the circuit court did not err.Appellant injured his left and right shoulder at work. Western National Insurance (Insurer), the workers' compensation for Appellant's employers, paid workers' compensation benefits. Five years later, Appellant sent a letter to Insurer seeking a review of his workers' compensation benefits and sent a copy of this letter to the Department requesting that the Department determine that the letter constituted a petition for hearing. The Department concluded that the letter was not a petition for hearing because it lacked the information required by ARSD 47:03:01:02. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding that Appellant's letter did not satisfy ARSD 47:03:01:02. View "May v. Spearfish Pellett Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court reversing the decision of the Department of Labor denying Taylor Hughes's workers' compensation claim for an alleged work-related back injury, holding that the circuit court correctly held that Hughes was entitled to recover for his injury.After a hearing, the Department determined that Hughes had not proven by a preponderance of the evidence that his disability was caused by a workplace injury and that his work activities were a major contributing cause of his disability. The circuit court reversed, determining (1) the Department erred by applying the incorrect standard to the causation of the injury, and (2) the Department's finding that Hughes failed to establish causation was clearly erroneous. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly overturned the Department's decision because Hughes proved by a preponderance of the evidence that his injury was work-related and that his employment was a major contributing cause of his current condition. View "Hughes v. Dakota Mill & Grain" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Department of Labor and Regulation denying Steven Billman's application for permanent total disability benefits, holding that the Department's determination that Billman was not obviously unemployable was clearly erroneous.During his employment, Billman suffered a work-related injury that required the amputation of his left leg just below the knee. The Department denied Billman's application for benefits, finding that Billman was not obviously unemployable and that he failed to conduct a reasonable job search. The circuit court affirmed the Department's findings. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Billman established that he was obviously unemployable, and therefore, he was entitled to odd-lot disability benefits. View "Billman v. Clarke Machine, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this insurance dispute arising from an employee's death, the Supreme Court remanded the determination that the employer's insurer providing underinsured motorist coverage and workers' compensation insurance was entitled to a lien on a portion of settlement proceeds received by the estate, holding that, given a lack of factual findings, there was no way to evaluate whether the court clearly erred in its assessment of the various factors impacting an equitable allocation.Charles Luze died in a work-related accident. His employer paid his wife, Jeanette Luze, workers' compensation benefits. Jeanette, as the representative of Charles's estate, then brought suit against the negligent driver and settled the claim. The estate also settled a claim against the New FB's insurer providing underinsured motorist coverage, Zurich American Insurance Company, which was also New FB's workers' compensation carrier. The circuit court determined that Zurich was entitled to a statutory workers' compensation lien on fifty percent of the settlement proceeds received by the estate and was able to subrogate against its own settlement payment of underinsured benefits. The Supreme Court remanded in part, holding (1) this Court was unable meaningfully to review the circuit court's allocation determination; and (2) the circuit court properly allowed Zurich to subrogate against the amount it paid in underinsured motorist benefits. View "Luze v. New FB Co." on Justia Law