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In re Compensation of Evans

Court of Appeals of Oregon

May 10, 2017

In the Matter of the Compensation of Robert C. Evans, III, Claimant.
v.
SAIF CORPORATION; and B & G, Inc. - Gold Coast Truck Repair, Respondents. Robert C. EVANS, III, Petitioner,

          Argued and submitted May 26, 2016

         Workers' Compensation Board 1304105

          Theodore P. Heus argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs was Preston Bunnell, LLP.

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

          Before Ortega, Presiding Judge, and Lagesen, Judge, and Wilson, Senior Judge.

         Case Summary:

         Claimant petitions for review of a final order of the Workers' Compensation Board. In that order, the board upheld insurer SAIF Corporation's denial of claimant's "combined condition" claim, which SAIF issued after determining that claimant's accepted workplace injury was no longer the major contributing cause of claimant's disability or need for treatment. On appeal, claimant challenges the board's denial of the compensability of his combined condition. In his first assignment of error he asserts that the board erroneously analyzed whether claimant's "accepted condition" remained the major contributing cause of his combined condition, rather than analyzing whether claimant's "work-related injury incident" remained the major contributing cause of his combined condition. Relatedly, in his third assignment of error, claimant asserts that even if the board applied the correct legal standard, its determination that claimant's work-related injury incident was no longer the major contributing cause of his combined condition is not supported by substantial evidence. Additionally, in his second assignment of error, claimant asserts that the board's finding that his medical condition changed between the date of SAIF's effective acceptance of claimant's combined condition and the date that, according to SAIF, his combined condition became no longer compensable is not supported by substantial evidence.

         Held:

         Regardless of any causal role that the "work-related injury incident" continues to play in claimant's combined condition, it is undisputed that, at the time of SAIF's denial of the compensability of claimant's combined condition, claimant's accepted condition was no longer the major contributing cause of claimant's combined condition. Accordingly, under the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. SAIF, 361 Or 241, 391 P.3d 773 (2017), the Court of Appeals rejects claimant's first and third assignments of error. As to claimant's second assignment of error, substantial evidence supports the finding that claimant's medical condition changed between the date of SAIF's acceptance of his combined condition and the date SAIF found claimant's combined condition became no longer compensable.

         Affirmed.

          LAGESEN, J.

         Claimant petitions for review of a final order of the Workers' Compensation Board. In that order, the board upheld insurer SAIF Corporation's denial of claimant's "combined condition" claim, which SAIF issued after determining that claimant's accepted workplace injury was no longer the major contributing cause of claimant's disability or need for treatment. See ORS 656.OO5(7)(a)(B); 656.262(6)(c); Brown v. SAIF. 361 Or 241, 243, 391 P.3d 773 (2017) (explaining the nature of a "combined condition" claim for workers' compensation benefits). We review under ORS 183.482(8), ORS 656.298(7), and affirm.

         On February 11, 2013, claimant injured his low back at work, and claimed workers' compensation benefits in connection with the injury. SAIF accepted the claim, designating the accepted condition as a "lumbar strain." Later, SAIF modified its acceptance to accept a combined condition beginning on the date of claimant's workplace injury. SAIF identified the combined condition as the lumbar strain that claimant suffered at work combined with claimant's preexisting lumbar spondylosis. SAIF subsequently denied the continued compensability of claimant's combined condition, finding that, as of August 7, 2013, claimant's workplace injury was no longer the major contributing cause of his disability or need for treatment. Thereafter, SAIF closed the claim, awarding time loss but no permanent disability.

         Claimant requested a hearing on the denial before an administrative law judge (ALJ) and the ALJ affirmed. Claimant then sought review before the board, and the board, over the dissent of one board member, adopted and affirmed the ALJ's order, with supplementary analysis addressing whether SAIF's denial was permissible under our decision in Brown ...


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