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In re Compensation of Lowells

Court of Appeals of Oregon

May 3, 2017

In the Matter of the Compensation of Doris L. Lowells, Claimant.
v.
SAIF CORPORATION and HCW Clients, Respondents. Doris L. LOWELLS, Petitioner,

          Argued and submitted September 21, 2015

         Workers' Compensation Board 1202172

          Julene M. Quinn argued the cause and fled the briefs for petitioner.

          Julie Masters argued the cause and fled the brief for respondents.

          Before Armstrong, Presiding Judge, and Hadlock, Chief Judge, and Egan, Judge.

         Case Summary:

         Claimant, who worked for many years as a home health care worker, seeks review of an order of the Workers' Compensation Board holding that her chronic pain disorder is not compensable as an occupational disease because its major contributing cause are factors personal to claimant, such as her weight, deconditioning, and history of chronic tobacco use. Claimant contends that the board erred in considering factors personal to claimant in evaluating the cause of claimant's back symptoms.

         Held:

         The board did not err in relying on medical evidence that claimant's weight and deconditioning were causes, not just susceptibilities or predispositions, of claimant's symptoms, and those medical opinions support the board's conclusion that factors other than claimant's work were the major contributing cause of her symptoms.

         Affirmed.

          HADLOCK, C. J.

         Claimant seeks judicial review of an order of the workers' compensation board holding that her chronic pain disorder is not compensable as an occupational disease, because its major contributing cause are factors personal to claimant, such as her weight, deconditioning, and history of chronic tobacco use. Because it concluded that claimant's work was not the major contributing cause of her chronic back pain, the board did not expressly address whether that pain constituted an occupational disease. On judicial review, claimant contends that the board erred in considering factors personal to claimant in evaluating the cause of claimant's back symptoms. In reviewing the board's order for substantial evidence and errors of law, ORS 183.482(8), we conclude that the board did not err and therefore affirm.

         The facts are largely undisputed. Claimant has worked for many years as a home health care worker. Claimant's doctors described claimant's work as strenuous. Claimant has a history of low-back injuries for which she did not seek compensation, as well as one accepted claim for a lumbosacral strain based on an injury in 2011. That claim closed without an award of permanent disability. In January 2012, claimant filed the occupational disease claim at issue here, asserting that her years working as a home health care worker have caused an occupational disease that she describes as chronic back pain.

         In medical examinations, claimant complained of pain during work and other activities. Medical imaging revealed mild degenerative changes in claimant's low back, but doctors opined that the changes were normal for claimant's age and were not related to her work. Doctors explained that there were no other objective findings or abnormalities that could explain claimant's pain. They expressed the opinion that claimant's work was a "significant" ...


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