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SAIF v. Owens

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 12-29-2011
Case #: A145552
Armstrong, J. for the Court; Haselton, P.J.; & Duncan, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/A145552.pdf

Workers Compensation: An attending physician must affirmatively release a claimant to work at the job at injury before a claim may be closed; if the job-at-injury is incorrectly identified, the physician has not affirmatively released the claimant. The only evidence that the board may consider when evaluating impairment findings is the report from the medical arbiter and the attending physician.

Employer appealed a board determination that the claimant-respondent had not been released to regular work at the job at which he was injured, and was thus entitled to work disability. Additionally, employer appealed the board determination that, in determining the claimant's level of impairment, it could only consider the reports of the medical arbiter and the claimant's attending physician. The claimant was working at employer's mill when the employer accepted a claim for disabling cervical and thoracic strain and fracture. Claimant's surgeon described claimant's job-at-injury as "journeyman carpenter" and released him to regular work. Employer followed up with claimant's follow-up attending physician, asking if claimant was released to regular work, to which the attending physician responded. Based on his response, employer closed the claim. Claimant requested a reconsideration, and the medical arbiter found that claimant's symptoms had worsened since the surgeon released him for work. The review unit issued an order on reconsideration increasing claimant's award. On appeal, employer argued that the board erred in finding that the attending physician only released claimant for work as a carpenter, and that it failed to consider two additional medical reports. The Court of Appeals found that the board could have found that the surgeon's mistaken identification of the job-at-injury as journeyman carpenter meant that the attending physician did not affirmatively release claimant for his job-at-injury. Additionally, the Court found that the statutes governing findings of impairment limit the evidence the board can consider to the findings of the medical arbiter, the attending physician, and reports the attending physician concurs in. Affirmed.