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In re Compensation of Davis-Warren

Court of Appeals of Oregon

October 15, 2014

In the Matter of the Compensation of Lisa R. Davis-Warren, Claimant. HORIZON AIR INDUSTRIES, INC., Petitioner,

Argued and submitted: March 18, 2014.

1003965. Workers' Compensation Board.

Michael G. Bostwick argued the cause and filed the briefs for petitioner.

Jodie Anne Phillips Polich argued the cause for respondent. With her on the brief was Law Offices of Jodie Anne Phillips Polich, P.C.

Before Ortega, Presiding Judge, and DeVore, Judge, and Garrett, Judge.


[266 Or.App. 390] GARRETT, J.

Horizon Air Industries, Inc., petitions for reversal of an order by the Workers'

Page 960

Compensation Board. At issue on review is the board's conclusion that claimant, a flight attendant, suffered a compensable injury arising from an incident aboard one of employer's aircraft. We conclude that substantial evidence supports the board's findings that (1) claimant suffered an " injury" during the course of her employment and (2) that injury " required medical services," specifically a " test of pressure with hyperbaric oxygen." We, therefore, affirm the board's order.

The facts are not disputed. Claimant was working a Horizon Air flight from Bozeman, Montana, to Seattle, Washington. Five to ten minutes into the flight, claimant could not take a normal breath. Moments later, the pilot notified the flight attendants that the plane was failing to fully pressurize as it ascended. Claimant felt like she was going to pass out. Another flight attendant, Johnston, also felt light-headed. Claimant sat down on the floor and asked for oxygen. Claimant and Johnston took breaths from an oxygen tank. The captain lowered the flight altitude, and there were no further pressurization problems during the flight. For the remainder of the flight, however, claimant continued to have trouble with breathing, dizziness, and nausea. Passengers were never informed of the cabin-pressurization problem. Most of the passengers seemed " okay" during the flight, although claimant saw three passengers who were nauseous and one who actually vomited. Johnston saw one passenger who looked " sickly."

Upon arrival in Seattle, claimant, who was scheduled to work a flight to Canada, instead returned home to Portland (as a passenger). Claimant's husband picked her up at the Portland airport because she did not feel able to drive. Claimant's symptoms continued to worsen. According to her husband, claimant seemed " lethargic" and complained of headaches, faintness, and difficulty walking and breathing. When the couple arrived home in Forest Grove, claimant got in her own vehicle and drove to the Tuality Forest Grove Hospital. After being evaluated there, claimant was driven by ambulance to Providence Hospital.

[266 Or.App. 391] Dr. Meghashyam examined claimant at Providence. Meghashyam asked about the incident aboard the flight and conducted a number of tests on claimant. Meghashyam testified that claimant " executed most of the commands well," but also noted that claimant was somewhat unsteady and had difficulty walking in a straight line. During the past-pointing test, which required claimant to reach out and touch a particular object, Meghashyam observed that claimant's hand would " go a little bit past [the object] and then come back." Meghashyam determined that claimant's symptoms may have been caused by the " changes in cabin pressure" that claimant described. Meghashyam consulted with the Divers Alert Network at Duke University and Travis Air Force Base to arrive at a treatment plan. Meghashyam determined that, based on claimant's symptoms and the " change in ambient pressure" that claimant had experienced, the standard of care would be a " test of pressure" by way of hyperbaric treatment. In total, claimant received five treatments in a hyperbaric chamber during a five-day hospital stay. Afterward, claimant felt significantly better but still complained of vertigo, short-term memory loss, and nausea. Claimant's " discharge diagnosis" was recorded by Dr. Barone as " [d]ecompression illness secondary to being in a depressurized plane at approximately 10,000 feet." Claimant's coworker, Johnston, never sought medical treatment following the pressurization incident. He did, however, report " feeling spacey" even after arriving in Seattle and decided to call in sick for his next scheduled day of work.

Claimant was subsequently treated by Dr. Braddock and Dr. Donahue, who diagnosed claimant with confusion, vertigo, and hypoxia. At employer's request, Dr. Burton examined claimant. Burton, who is board certified in occupational medicine and medical toxicology, also examined the incident report completed by the pilot. That report stated that the cabin pressure warning light came on as the plane reached approximately 12,000 feet. When the plane reached 18,000 feet, the " cabin altitude" was indicated at 14,000 feet for approximately five minutes. The cabin altitude ...

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