Board’s Interpretation of a Medical Opinion Must Be Reasonable

lauren odaIn a recent decision, Armenta v. PCC Structural, Inc. (A141790), the Oregon Court of Appeals issued an unfavorable opinion regarding the Board’s ability to disregard an expert’s medical opinion when it does not address the subject in dispute.

Claimant sought review of the Board’s Order upholding the employer’s denial of occupational disease claims for cervical radiculopathy and lumbar radiculopathy. Claimant offered Dr. Gritzka’s report as rebuttal evidence. Claimant alleged the Board erred in disregarding Dr. Gritzka’s opinion as to causation of cervical and lumbar radiculopathy. The Board determined that Dr. Gritzka’s report did not address the conditions at issue, cervical and lumbar radiculopathy, and therefore did not consider it in making their compensability decision. The Court of Appeals reversed the Board’s Order holding the Board unreasonably disregarded Dr. Gritzka’s opinion.

The Court explained the applicable standard of review was not “abuse of discretion,” but instead whether the Board’s interpretation of the medical opinion was reasonable. Although Dr. Gritzka did not include the term “lumbar radiculopathy,” he described compression of the spinal nerve roots causing pain. The Court concluded the only reasonable interpretation was that Dr. Gritzka’s opinion did address the alleged radiculopathy and its cause. Based on that interpretation, the Court reversed the Board’s order and remanded the case to the Board for reconsideration based on a “correct” understanding of Dr. Gritzka’s report.

If you have any questions about this decision or any other issues, please contact me at (503) 595-2139 or loda@sbhlegal.com.