Arvilla Oilfield Services v. WCAB (Carlson), __ A.3d __ (Pa. Cmwlth., No. 1578 C.D. 2013, filed May 20, 2014)
The Employer filed an appeal after its IRE Modification Petition was denied on the basis that the claimant had not yet reached maximum medical improvement (MMI).
In reviewing the evidentiary record, the Commonwealth Court observed that claimant’s medical expert was not asked to render or specifically offer an opinion as to whether claimant was at MMI, as defined by the AMA Guides. Furthermore, since claimant’s medical expert examined claimant three months before the IRE, the Court found that his testimony could not support a finding that claimant had not reached MMI as of the date of the IRE. The Court also noted that since claimant’s medical expert was providing palliative care, designed to manage the claimant’s symptoms, a type of treatment he was offering was wholly compatible with the AMA Guides’ description of MMI and not contrary to it. Finally, claimant’s medical expert was treating claimant for conditions which the WCJ deemed not work-related and refused to add to the NCP. In this regard, the testimony of claimant’s medical expert could not support a finding that the claimant had not reached MMI with respect to the accepted injury. In contrast, the IRE physician offered testimony compatible with the AMA Guides’ definition of MMI.
Accordingly, the Court found that the WCJ had erred in relying on the testimony of claimant’s medical expert and that the employer’s medical evidence was the only competent evidence of MMI. The matter was remanded to the WCJ to make credibility determinations based on the IRE physician’s testimony and IRE report and to render any necessary findings regarding the impairment rating.