from the District Court of Burleigh County, South Central
Judicial District, the Honorable Thomas J. Schneider, Judge.
M. Grant, Minot, ND, for appellant.
Jacqueline S. Anderson, Special Assistant Attorney General,
Fargo, ND, for appellee.
Jack Robinson appeals from a district court judgment
affirming a Workforce Safety and Insurance ("WSI")
order finding Robinson personally liable for any unpaid
workers' compensation premiums, penalties, interest, and
costs owed by Dalton Logistics, Inc. ("Dalton").
Robinson argues WSI failed to properly serve him with the
administrative order resulting in a lack of personal
jurisdiction and that his due process rights were violated.
We reverse the judgment and remand to the agency with
In June 2015, WSI issued a notice of decision finding
Robinson, as vice president of Dalton Logistics, Inc.,
personally liable for all unpaid workers' compensation
premiums, penalties, interest, and costs owed by Dalton.
In August 2015, after no response from Robinson, WSI
commenced a civil action in district court seeking a judgment
against Robinson for unpaid workers' compensation
premiums, penalties, and interest. In November 2015, WSI
moved for summary judgment. Robinson opposed WSI's motion
for summary judgment on the basis that Robinson was not
properly served the notice of decision. In December 2016, the
district court action was dismissed without prejudice based
on the parties' stipulation.
In March 2017, WSI issued an administrative order, again
finding Robinson personally liable for amounts owed by
Dalton. The administrative order was served by certified mail
on the attorney Robinson retained in the district court
proceedings. In April 2017, Robinson's attorney requested
the matter be dismissed, arguing Robinson had not been
properly served "notice of the decision," by
regular mail, citing N.D.C.C. § 65-04-32. The request
stated that although Robinson's attorney represented
Robinson in past actions, "he has not been authorized to
accept service on his behalf to commence the present
action," and that valid service of process was necessary
for WSI to assert personal jurisdiction over Robinson.
Robinson requested in the alternative that a hearing be
scheduled for presenting evidence to correctly determine the
past due premium amounts and whether Robinson was personally
liable. The request for a hearing was granted.
At the administrative hearing, Robinson's attorney moved
to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction on
Robinson's behalf, reiterating his objection to the lack
of service as required under N.D.C.C. § 65-04-32(1),
arguing failure to properly serve Robinson personally with
the notice of decision resulted in a failure to effect
personal jurisdiction over him and due process violations.
Robinson's attorney further argued WSI was not authorized
to serve the administrative order on Robinson's attorney,
because he had not represented that he had authority to
accept service on behalf of Robinson. WSI argued the
administrative proceedings were not commenced following the
issuance of a notice of decision governed by N.D.C.C. §
65-04-32(1); rather, the current proceedings were initiated
by serving an administrative order, governed by N.D.C.C.
§ 65-04-32(3), which does not require first serving a
notice of decision. WSI argued it served Robinson's
attorney with the administrative order because Robinson's
attorney was still on the account as the attorney of record.
After the hearing, the ALJ issued findings, conclusions of
law, and an order affirming WSI's March 2017
administrative order. The hearing officer concluded that the
hearing proceeded under N.D.C.C. § 65-04-32(3), not
N.D.C.C. § 65-04-32(1), denying Robinson's motion to
dismiss as a matter of law. Robinson appealed the ALJ's
order to the district court, and the district court affirmed.
"In an appeal from a district court's review of an
administrative agency's decision, we review the
agency's decision." Haynes v. Dir., Dep't of
Transp., 2014 ND 161, ¶ 6, 851 N.W.2d 172. This
Court must affirm the agency's decision unless:
1. The order is not in accordance with the law.
2. The order is in violation of the constitutional rights of