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Minnesota Supreme Court Solidifies Common-Enterprise Doctrine with Ruling in Favor of Third Party

Jessica Kelly, as Trustee for the heirs and next-of-kin of Richard Roy Washburn, Deceased, Appellant vs. Kraemer Construction, Inc., Respondent – Case No. A15-1751:
Richard Washburn was killed while on the job as an employee of Ulland Brothers, Inc., a general contractor that had subcontracted with respondent Kraemer Construction, Inc., on a bridge construction project. Appellant Jessica Kelly applied for and received workers’ compensation benefits on behalf of Washburn’s children. As trustee for Washburn’s heirs and next-of-kin, she also brought a wrongful death action against Kraemer based on negligence.
Kraemer moved for summary judgment, arguing that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the tort action because appellant elected to collect workers’ compensation benefits and because Ulland and Kraemer were engaged in a common enterprise at the time of the accident. See Minn. Stat. § 176.061, subds. 1, 4 (2016). The district court denied summary judgment. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for entry of summary judgment in favor of Kraemer.
On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the court of appeals erred in concluding, as a matter of law, that Ulland and Kraemer were engaged in a common enterprise at the time of the accident—specifically, whether their employees were working together on a common activity, and whether they were exposed to the same or similar hazards. (St. Louis County)