In the Matter of the Compensation of Ramon M. Maldonado, Claimant.
Ramon M. MALDONADO, Respondent. SAIF CORPORATION and Arrowhead Ornamentals, Petitioners,
and submitted September 12, 2017
Workers' Compensation Board 1404365
L. Runner argued the cause and fled the briefs for
J. Rhea argued the cause for respondent. Also on the brief
was Dunn & Roy, PC.
Garrett, Presiding Judge, and Ortega, Judge, and Powers,
Summary: Employer Arrowhead Ornamentals and its workers'
compensation insurance carrier, SAIF, seek review of an order
of the Workers' Compensation Board (the board) reversing
the administrative law judge's order upholding SAIF's
denial of claimant's injuries. SAIF assigns error to,
among other things, the board's reliance on the "law
of the case" doctrine in evaluating the evidence.
Held: It was error for the board to rely on the law
of the case doctrine to reject SAIF's position.
Or.App. 253] POWERS, J.
Arrowhead Ornamentals and its workers' compensation
insurance carrier, SAIF, seek review of an order of the
Workers' Compensation Board (the board) reversing the
administrative law judge's (ALJ) order upholding
SAIF's denial of claimant's injuries. SAIF assigns
error to, among other things, the board's reliance on the
"law of the case" doctrine in evaluating the
evidence. We conclude that the board erred in applying and
relying on the law of the case doctrine. Accordingly, we
reverse and remand.
review the board's order for substantial evidence and
legal error, ORS 656.298(7); ORS 183.482(8), and substantial
reason, Christman v. SAIF, 181 Or.App. 191, 197, 45
P.3d 946 (2002). We summarize the facts in a manner
consistent with the unchallenged factual findings of the
board. SAIF Corp. v. Bales, 274 Or.App. 700, 701,
360 P.3d 1281, rev den, 360 Or. 237 (2016).
sustained a compensable low back injury when he shook dirt
off of a 50-pound tree root ball. After the injury, claimant
saw several physicians, including multiple physicians at
SAIF's request, who came to varying conclusions about
claimant's back condition, for which he received
diagnoses of spondylolisthesis, spondylosis, and injury from
the work incident. SAIF initially denied claimant's claim
but, by stipulation, SAIF ultimately agreed to accept a claim
for lumbar strain/sprain, L3-4 disc protrusion, and L5-S1
disc protrusion. SAIF's stipulation was limited to those
the claim was accepted, claimant began treatment. In
providing treatment, several physicians concluded that
claimant's symptoms were due to his preexisting
spondylolisthesis. However, one physician, Dr. Keenan,
concluded that claimant needed treatment for
spondylolisthesis, and that the spondylolisthesis had been
worsened by the work-related injury. Accordingly, claimant
initiated a new/ omitted medical condition claim for his
spondylolytic defect/ spondylolysis condition, which SAIF
Or.App. 254] Claimant contested, and the ALJ upheld,
SAIF's denial; the ALJ found the opinions of the
physicians relied on by SAIF more persuasive. Claimant then
appealed the ALJ's order to the board, arguing, among
other things, that the medical opinions on which SAIF relied
were contrary to the "law of the case," and
therefore unpersuasive. The board agreed, reasoning that the
medical opinions of causation on which SAIF relied were
rooted in analyses that were "contrary to issues decided
as a matter of law" in the stipulation, and were
therefore "inconsistent with the 'law of the
case' and unpersuasive." The board reversed the
ALJ's order and set aside SAIF's denial of the
spondylolytic defect/spondylolysis condition.
SAIF challenges the board's application of the law of the
case doctrine. As explained below, SAIF is correct that the