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Matteau Riley v. ARA Services/County School

CASE NO. 2280 CRB-2-95-1

COMPENSATION REVIEW BOARD

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION

NOVEMBER 25, 1996

JEANNE MATTEAU RILEY

CLAIMANT-APPELLANT

v.

ARA SERVICES/COUNTY SCHOOL

EMPLOYER

and

ALEXSIS, INC.

SELF-INSURED ADMINISTRATOR

RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES

APPEARANCES:

The claimant was represented by Frank McIntosh, Esq., 402 Long Hill Road, Groton, CT 06340.

The respondents were represented by Robert McGann, Esq., McGann, Bartlett & Brown, 281 Hartford Tpke., Vernon, CT 06066.

This Petition for Review from the January 18, 1995 Finding and Dismissal of the Commissioner acting for the Second District was heard December 1, 1995 before a Compensation Review Board panel consisting of the Commission Chairman Jesse M. Frankl and Commissioners Roberta Smith Tracy and Amado J. Vargas.

OPINION

JESSE M. FRANKL, CHAIRMAN. The claimant has petitioned for review from the January 18, 1995 Finding and Dismissal of the Commissioner acting for the Second District. She argues on appeal that the commissioner erroneously failed to authorize a proposed arthroscopy of her left knee on the grounds that it was not reasonable and necessary medical treatment. We remand this matter back to the trial commissioner for further articulation of her findings.

The claimant suffered a compensable injury to her left knee in 1978 when she fell at work. A 1983 voluntary agreement assigned her 22.5 percent permanent partial disability of that knee. The claimant has undergone several knee surgeries as a result of her injury. According to her two treating physicians, the claimant has advanced chondromalacia of the patella. One of them, Dr. Richeimer, believes she should undergo arthroscopic surgery. At the request of a commissioner, the claimant was examined by Dr. Selden on May 9, 1994. Dr. Selden agreed that an arthroscopic surgical debridement of her left knee would be appropriate, and might partially relieve her discomfort.

The trial commissioner did not follow Dr. Selden’s recommendation in her findings. Instead, she adopted the position of Dr. Fisher, the respondents’ examiner, who last evaluated the claimant on November 8, 1993. In his opinion, the claimant had surprisingly good function of the knee, and did not need arthroscopic surgery. Dr. Fisher and Dr. Richeimer also disagreed on whether the claimant still retained part of her medial meniscus in her left knee despite earlier surgery. The commissioner noted that Dr. Fisher had later reviewed the reports of both Drs. Richeimer and Selden, and still disagreed with their recommendations that an arthroscopy be performed. Without further explanation, she ruled that the proposed arthroscopy was unreasonable “as the claimant lacks a left knee medial meniscus due to its prior surgical removal,” and denied the request for surgery. The claimant has appealed that decision.

It is axiomatic in workers’ compensation proceedings that a trial commissioner is empowered to choose among conflicting medical opinions in evaluating the weight of the evidence. Prescott v. Echlin, Inc., 14 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 191, 193-94, 2029 CRB-3-94-4 (July 13, 1995); Webb v. Pfizer, Inc., 14 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 69, 70-71, 1859 CRB-5-93-9 (May 12, 1995). Unless her factual findings lack any support in the evidence, this board will not disturb them on appeal. Id., 70; Fair v. People’s Savings Bank, 207 Conn. 535, 539 (1988). Here, Dr. Fisher’s medical reports constitute significant support for the commissioner’s decision.

That is not the end of this matter, however. We recently stated in Iannotti v. Amphenol/Spectra-Strip, 13 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 319, 321, 1829 CRB-3-93-9 (April 25, 1995), that the parties are entitled to expect that a medical examination ordered by a commissioner will provide strong guidance to him or her in making a decision. “Where a commissioner chooses not to adopt the diagnosis of the physician performing that examination, he or she should articulate the reasons behind his or her decision to disregard the examiner’s report.” Id. Although a trial commissioner is never bound to accept the medical opinion of a doctor who performs a commissioner’s exam, it is important that a commissioner explain why he or she did not find that physician’s opinion persuasive. The commissioner did not do that here. Therefore, we remand this case back to her for further explanation of her decision not to credit Dr. Selden’s report.

Commissioners Roberta Smith Tracy and Amado J. Vargas concur.

Workers’ Compensation Commission

Page last revised: May 11, 2005

Page URL: http://wcc.state.ct.us/crb/1996/2280crb.htm

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State of Connecticut Workers' Compensation Commission, John A. Mastropietro, Chairman
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