Attorneys for Appellant Attorney for Appellee
Doris L. Sweetin Patrick F. OLeary
Kevin C. Tyra Goshen, Indiana
Tyra & Collesano, P.C.
Appeal from the Full Workers Compensation Board of Indiana, No. C-150794
On Petition To Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 93A02-0209-EX-751
May 4, 2005
The Indiana Worker's Compensation Board found that Plaintiff Anthony Caskey, a machinist employed
by defendant Dial-X Automated Equipment, was entitled to benefits under the Indiana Worker's
Compensation Act. Appealing the decision of the Board, Dial-X alleged various errors
regarding the Board's determinations of compensability and temporary total disability benefits. The
Court of Appeals reversed in a memorandum opinion, and we granted transfer.
As a result of an alleged injury sustained while working for Dial-X on
May 24, 1999, Caskey was initially off work a week and a half.
He returned to work from June 7, 1999, to July 27, 1999,
but has not worked for Dial-X since, although he reported for work on
April 3, 2000. In a
ccordance with the Act, Dial-X paid Caskey Temporary
Total Disability (TTD) and medical expense benefits to April 9, 2000. Due
to the parties' disagreement primarily regarding whether Caskey should receive further medical treatment
and TTD benefits from Dial-X, a hearing was held in May 2001 before
a single hearing member who issued findings and conclusions on July 17, 2001,
awarding Caskey continuing TTD benefits and expenses of additional medical care. Dial-X
sought review of the award by the Full Worker's Compensation Board, which thereafter
expressly adopted and affirmed the decision of the single hearing member.
We believe that the distinction between "adopting the decision" and "explicitly adopting the
findings and conclusions" is overly formalistic and unnecessary. It is of no
consequence whether the full board makes separate findings or adopts written findings made
by the single hearing member so long as the final decision of the
full board may be reviewed in light of the written findings on which
the decision is based. Prior cases have recognized that where a hearing
officer's statements or findings are supported by the evidence and embody the requisite
specificity, the board "should not hesitate to adopt and incorporate by reference the
hearing officer's work,"
See footnote and that, assuming the appropriate scrutiny occurred, the board "is
bited by statute from, nor judicially condemned for, adopting the hearing judge's
See footnote In this case, the single hearing member made written findings and
the full board found that the hearing officer's decision "should be adopted."See footnote
Such adoption is sufficient to attri
bute to the full board the explicit written
findings of the single hearing member and to permit appellate review accordingly.
The Board's findings note medical evidence that, based on an August 19, 1999
ation, "there was 'reasonable medical certainty of causal relationship' between the Plaintiff's injuries
and the events of May 24, 1999."
See footnote The findings also refer to
idence that on March 9, 2000, one of the physicians recommended the use
of a spinal cord stimulator for Caskey and that this recommendation "was reiterated
by various other doctors who examined and/or reviewed records of the Plaintiff's history
in connection with the symptoms arising on May 24, 1999."
In reviewing a Board decision, an appellate court considers "only the evidence most
avorable to the award, including any and all reasonable inferences deductible from the
See footnote Dial-X's claim of inconsistent or contradictory evidence, because it i
concedes that there is some evidence in support of the Board's findings, undermines
its claim of abuse of discretion. We find that the Board's conclusion
of compensability is supported by its findings, which are in turn supported by
the evidence. We decline to find error on this issue.
a. Finding Caskey Unable to Work After February 8, 2000
As to its claim of erroneous finding that Caskey was unable to work
after February 8, 2000, Dial-X argues that the doctor released Caskey to light
duty work effective that date, that the doctor's findings were uncontroverted but ignored
by the Board, that the doctor's later opinion of continuing total disability is
not based on any "medical information," and that the Board's holding is clearly
erroneous because it is contrary to the undisputed evidence.
See footnote Central to this
Dial-X claim are the following passages from the "Conclusions and Award" se
the Board's decision:
2. On February 8, 2000, Dr. Shugart first opined Plaintiff could work with a five to ten pound restriction and no repetitive bending and twisting. He maintained this opinion up until April 6, 2000, when he recommended the Plaintiff go on disability. Between February and April, Plaintiff's symptoms had not significantly worsened, according to the medical history and reports provided. The undersigned [Single Hearing Member] thus concludes Plaintiff would have been unable to work between February 8th and April 6, 2000.
3. Plaintiff's condition has not improved since April 6, 2000. He remains temporarily, totally disabled to the date of hearing, and is entitled to benefits in connection therewith. . . .
4. Further, Plaintiff is entitled to additional temporary total disability benefits until he is found to be at maximum medical improvement, or as otherwise released by his treating
physician . . . . See footnote
We first note that the date of February 8, 2000, stated in the "Conclusions and Award" section of the Board's decision as to when Dr. Shugart "first opined Plaintiff could work," is slightly inconsistent with the Board's own fin dings and with the evidence, reflecting a scrivener's error. It was, rather, on March 9, 2000, that Dr. Robert M. Shugart, M.D. saw Caskey and described his work status as "at this time, light duty, 5-10 lb. No repetitive bending or twisting." See footnote Dial-X itself refers to this ev idence when identifying the point when "Dr. Shugart released Caskey back to work with restrictions." See footnote Lik ewise, earlier in its decision at Finding 2, the Board's decision referred to Dr. Shugart's releasing Caskey for limited work as occurring on March 9, 2000. See footnote
Dial-X further asserts, however, that the Board improperly concluded that Caskey "has not
mproved since April 6, 2000" and that he "remains temporarily, totally disabled to
the date of hearing, and is entitled to benefits in connection therewith."
Dial-X urges that Dr. Shugart's initial opinion releasing Caskey to limited work on
February 8, 2000 (corrected to March 9, 2000), coupled with the absence of
change noted by Dr. Shugart between then and April 6, de
monstrates the absence
of support for the Board's conclusion of ongoing total disability.
In its findings, the Board noted that on April 6, 2000, Dr. Shugart
"recommended disability for the Plaintiff, stating there was no work he could perform
in his current condition."
See footnote There is evidence in the record that supports
this finding. Dr. Shugart's medical entry on that date states in relevant
Diagnosis: status post laminotomy discectomy left L4-5, herniated disk 11-29-99.
Present condition: Tony Returns. He still has the pain. David Bojrab,
M.D. felt that a stimulator was an option for him. There is
nothing else we can really do as far as his ne
Physical Examination: unchanged.
Medical Decision Making: I think Tony is at maximum medical improvement; permanent
partial impairment rating according to American Medical Association Guidelines to the Evaluation of
Permanent Impairment, Fourth Edition would be lumbosacral category 3 with a 10% whole
person impairment rating.
My recommendation is for disability. He really cannot sit, stand, lift, and
has to do significant lying down during the day. Because of that,
I now feel that recommendation is for disability. . . . I
do feel that he is at maximum medical improvement.
[word obscured] status: Disability recommended since he is unable to do even sedentary
work secondary to pain and inability to sit, stand, for any period of time. See footnote
We understand the Board's findings and conclusion to express its determination that, although Dr. Shugart initially believed, on March 9, 2000, that Caskey could resume light, limited work, by the time of his examination on April 6, Dr. Shugart revised his opinion in light of the perv asive effects of the injury to conclude that Caskey was in fact totally disabled, which opinion the Board found credible and accepted.
b. TTD benefits after April 3, 2000
Dial-X also challenges the Board decision ordering TTD benefits after April 3, 2000, arguing that the Board ignored evidence that Dial-X offered light duty work, consistent with the medical restrictions, on April 3, 2000. Workers Compensation benefits for Temporary Total Disability may be terminated if the employee has refused to accept employment suitable to his capacity. See footnote
The Board's findings and conclusions make no reference to the alleged offer of
light duty work on April 3, 2000, and there is considerable, although vigorously
disputed, evidence regar
ding the events of that day. Caskey concedes that the
Board's decision "fails to address the issue of whether Caskey refused available work
and if so, whether that refusal was justified," and he urges remand to
the Board as the proper remedy.See footnote
Adhering to our obligation to give reasonable deference to the Board's findings, we
understand the Board's omission of this issue to be consistent with finding of
Caskey's ongoing total disability, in accordance with Dr. Shugart's opinion of April 6,
2000. Implicit in this finding of total disability is the premise that,
even if Dial-X did offer Caskey work on April 3, his medical condition
was one of total disability, and he could not have performed such work.
We thus conclude that the Board did not err in failing to
expressly discuss the factual dispute regarding the alleged April 3 work offer.
c. TTD Benefits after June 20, 2000
Dial-X also contends that the Board erred in allowing Caskey to receive TTD
benefits after June 20, 2000, the date the hearing before the single hearing
member was continued for a third time on Caskey's motion. Dial-X argues
for the adoption of a new rule estopping a worker's compensation plaintiff to
continue to accrue ongoing TTD benefits while obtaining repeated continuances of Board hearings
where an employer opposes payment of additional TTD on a good-faith basis.
Administration of the Indiana worker's compensation law is assigned to the Worker's Compensation
See footnote The Board is expressly authorized "[t]o hear, d
etermine, and review all
claims for compensation" under the Act.
See footnote Pursuant to its rulema
See footnote the
Board has adopted 631 IAC 1-1-10, which prohibits the granting of contin
for good cause.
Although requesting the adoption of a new estoppel rule, Dial-X is not asserting
error in the granting of the continuances in this case. We decline
to intrude upon the Board's authority to regulate its own proceedings.
Shepard, C.J., and Sullivan, Boehm, and Rucker, JJ., concur.