Justice Lorie S. Gildea
ST. PAUL -- Lower courts hearing Worker's Compensation cases must grant timely requests for examination by a neutral medical professional, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled yesterday. In the case of Connie C. Reider vs. Anoka-Hennepin School District No. 11 (no. AO6-1344), the Supreme Court overturned, in a split decision, an earlier ruling by the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA). That ruling in turn upheld an Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) ruling initially in the case that denied a request by the school district for an independent physician to examine Ms. Reider. The WCCA upheld the OAH's permanent partial disability compensation award. But on appeal by the School District the Supreme Court ruled that a neutral-exam under the relevant Minnesota statute was "mandatory when an interested party makes a timely request for a neutral physician," wrote Justice Lorie S. Gildea for the majority. In dissent, Justice Helen M. Meyer wrote that she believes the statute covering neutral-physician exam requests can be handled at the compensation judge's discretion. However, such requests are mandatory "upon timely request only when genuinely diputed medical issues are inherently complex," she wrote on behalf of herself and and fellow dissenter Justice Alan C. Page. The Supreme Court remanded the case for "redetermination on the existing record as supplemented by new evidence provided by the neutral physician."