Arguing . . . in the Alternative

Lindsey Rowland stands at a podium and addresses the Supreme Court.

There are many ways to win an argument. Oftentimes, an experienced attorney will make arguments “in the alternative” to increase the probability of winning.

Successfully arguing, in the alternative, at the Minnesota Supreme Court

When I argued before the Minnesota Supreme Court in January, 2020 (see below), I argued four alternative perspectives to put my client in the best position to win her case, and to ensure the best outcome for future cases affected by the Court’s decision.

The issue in Hawley v. City of Blaine and League of Minnesota Cities was whether the Workers’ Compensation Judge had subject matter jurisdiction, or the authority, to decide the employer/insurer’s motion to compel the employee to attend an independent psychological evaluation.

In that case, Meuser, Yackley & Rowland successfully represented the employee at the Office of Administrative Hearing (OAH) – Workers’ Compensation Division, at the Workers Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA), and the employer/insurer appealed the case to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

On appeal, I argued for four alternative outcomes, to increase the probability of achieving a positive outcome. Specifically, I argued that either:

(1) the employer/insurer’s appeal should be dismissed as moot;

(2) the employer/insurer’s appeal should be dismissed, and the WCCA decision should be vacated, because the WCCA did not have jurisdiction to hear the employer/insurer’s interlocutory appeal;

(3) the WCCA decision should be affirmed because the employer/insurer is not entitled to an IME before a proceeding is commenced by admitting the claim and paying benefits or by filing a petition; or

(4) if the WCCA decision is reversed, then the employer/insurer’s appeal should be remanded to the trial court to decide whether the employer/insurer’s request for an independent psychological examination was “reasonable.”

Presenting multiple argument, increases the probability of success

By presenting multiple arguments, I increased the odds of getting a favorable outcome. Any one of these outcomes would have been a “win” for my client and other injured workers affected by the outcome of this case.

Ultimately, the Minnesota Supreme Court dismissed the employer/insurer’s appeal as moot. As a result, the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals decision, which was decided in our favor, stands and remains the law that governs all future workers’ compensation cases in Minnesota.

This was an excellent outcome.

Our preference would have been a decision on the merits, confirming that an employer/insurer is not entitled to an Independent Medical Evaluation before a proceeding is commenced, but a dismissal on the basis that the case is moot was the second-best outcome because that means that the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals decision stands.

By arguing in the alternative, I gave the Court multiple ways to rule in favor of my client. The issues involved in this case were complex and arguing in the alternative gave the Court more ways to reach a consensus decision in our favor, on a potentially divisive issue.

Arguing Temporary Total Disability (TTD) and Permanent Total Disability (PTD), in the alternative

Arguing Temporary Total Disability (TTD) and Permanent Total Disability (PTD), in the alternative, is a common practice within workers’ compensation. When an employee is completely unable to work, due to the effects of a work-related injury, it may be unclear whether the employee’s disability is temporary or permanent.

In this situation, I would argue that the employee is entitled to Temporary Total Disability wage-loss benefits (wage-loss benefits available when you are temporarily unable to work due to your work-related injury), or Permanent Total Disability wage-loss benefits (wage-loss benefits available when you are forevermore unable to work due to your work-related injury), in the alternative.

Approaching your case in this way, gives the Workers’ Compensation Judge the ability to award benefits based on two different theories of the case. If the Judge concludes that the employee cannot work due to his/her work-related injury, then the Judge can decide whether to award PTD benefits or TTD benefits – either would be a “win” for my client.

Arguing PTSD or a physical-mental injury, in the alternative

Another situation that may warrant arguments in the alternative is when an employee is diagnosed with a work-related mental health injury. For example, if a Police Officer, Deputy Sheriff, Corrections Officer, Firefighter, EMT, or other qualifying first responder is diagnosed with PTSD following a Criteria A event at work that also results in a physical injury, then I might argue that the employee sustained work-related PTSD or a work-related physical-mental injury, in the alternative.

work-related PTSD claim must meet specific criteria. In certain situations, I might argue that the employee sustained a physical-mental injury, in the alternative, to give the Judge the opportunity to award benefits related to my client’s work-related mental health injury, even if she concludes that the employee does not meet all the criteria required to establish a work-related PTSD claim.

Meuser, Yackley & Rowland has a track-record of making successful arguments, in the alternative

The benefit of arguing different theories, in the alternative, is that it increases an employee’s probability of “winning” his/her case. At Meuser, Yackley & Rowland, P.A., our attorneys have a strong track record of making successful arguments in the alternative. If you have questions about your Workers’ Compensation, PERA/MSRSHealthcare Continuation, or Personal Injury claim, please contact us today for a FREE, no-obligation consultation.

You can watch Attorney Lindsey Meuser Rowland’s argument before the Minnesota Supreme Court by clicking on the following link: