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An out-of-state employer that hired a Colorado man to work in another state does not fall under the jurisdiction of Colorado’s workers compensation law, the Colorado Supreme Court said in an en banc ruling Tuesday.
Fort Myers, Florida-based Youngquist Brothers Oil & Gas Inc. hired Colorado resident Travis Miner to work as a derrickhand on an oil rig in Alexander, North Dakota, in December 2013. Mr. Miner learned of the job through a friend and applied for the position online from his Grand Junction, Colorado, home. A representative from Youngquist conducted a phone interview with Mr. Miner and offered him a job the same day, according to court documents.
Mr. Miner flew to North Dakota the next day using a plane ticket purchased by the company and began work after completing onboarding paperwork. On his second day of work, Mr. Miner slipped and fell down the rig’s stairs, injuring his back, according to an appeals court ruling reached in February 2016. Mr. Miner worked three more shifts, then reported the injury to his supervisor and returned to Colorado to seek medical treatment with the company’s approval, the ruling said.
North Dakota Workplace Safety and Insurance, the state’s monopoly workers comp insurer, denied a comp claim filed by Mr. Miner, saying he had a pre-existing back injury, court records show. Mr. Miner did not appeal that decision and instead sought comp benefits in Colorado.
In October 2014, a Colorado administrative law judge granted Mr. Miner comp benefits for a compensable work-related injury. The judge said Mr. Miner qualified for benefits because he was hired in Colorado and was injured within six months of leaving the state — two provisions that are included in Colorado’s workers comp law. The judge also imposed a penalty against Youngquist for failing to carry comp insurance in Colorado as required by the act.
Youngquist appealed the decision to the Colorado Industrial Claim Appeals Office, which affirmed the administrative law judge’s order. The company then appealed to a Colorado appeals court, claiming the state lacked personal jurisdiction over the case. The appeals court affirmed the prior order. The Colorado Supreme Court agreed to review the case.
The Colorado Supreme Court reversed the appeals court decision. The high court found that Youngquist did not have sufficient minimum contacts with Colorado for the state to exercise personal jurisdiction over the company, and therefore the company was not constitutionally subject to Colorado workers comp law.
The court found that Youngquist’s hiring of Mr. Miner over the phone while he was in Colorado did not create state jurisdiction over the company.
“A single responsive telephone call followed by payment for a ticket cannot constitute purposeful availment of the privileges of conducting business inside of Colorado if the requirement of purposeful availment is to be meaningful,” the ruling said. “This contact is better characterized as ‘random and fortuitous contact’ with Colorado.”
The court also said the company’s actions were not significant nor purposefully directed at Colorado residents. “Youngquist did not specifically recruit Miner or other Colorado residents, its representative did not physically come to Colorado, and it has no physical business location in Colorado,” the ruling said. “Ultimately Youngquist did not purposefully avail itself of the benefits and protections of Colorado’s laws and does not have sufficient minimum contacts with Colorado for Colorado to exercise personal jurisdiction over it.”
The high court remanded the case to the Colorado Industrial Claim Appeals Office to vacate its judgment.
A bill moved forward Tuesday that would limit permanent total disability workers compensation benefits paid to Arkansas workers.