Snyder v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office of the State of Colo.

Decision Date06 February 1997
Docket NumberNo. 96CA0679,96CA0679
Citation942 P.2d 1337
Parties21 Colorado Journal 198 Gregory SNYDER, Petitioner and Cross-Appellee, v. The INDUSTRIAL CLAIM APPEALS OFFICE of the State of Colorado and City of Aurora, Respondents and Cross-Appellants. . A
CourtColorado Court of Appeals

Brauer, Buescher, Valentine, Goldhammer & Kelman, P.C., Joseph M. Goldhammer, Denver, for Petitioner and Cross-Appellee.

Charles H. Richardson, City Attorney, Julia A. Bannon, Assistant City Attorney, Ann McEntire, Assistant City Attorney, Aurora, for Respondent and Cross-Appellant City of Aurora.

No Appearance by The Industrial Claim Appeals Office.

Opinion by Justice ERICKSON *.

In this workers' compensation case, Gregory Snyder (claimant) seeks review of a final order of the Industrial Claim Appeals Office (Panel) which modified the order of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and concluded that claimant's employer, the City of Aurora (employer), was not liable for certain medical expenses incurred by claimant. Employer cross-appeals that part of the Panel's order which ordered it to pay certain temporary total disability benefits. We affirm the Panel.

Claimant sustained an on-the-job injury on April 24, 1992, when a piece of drywall fell and struck him in the back while he was extinguishing a fire in his capacity as a firefighter. Claimant reported the injury and sought medical treatment for chest pain and shortness of breath on May 5, 1992. Employer filed a general admission of liability for medical benefits and temporary total disability benefits on May 14, 1992.

Claimant returned to work for employer in June 1992 but employer did not file an amended admission of liability pursuant to Department of Labor and Employment Rule IX, 7 Code Colo. Reg. 1101-3 (Rule IX). Employer continued to pay medical expenses incurred by claimant for his lung condition through the end of 1992 when employer received a medical report which concluded that claimant's lung condition was not related to his on-the-job injury.

In June 1993, claimant underwent a lung biopsy and developed severe complications which resulted in his inability to work from June 9, 1993, to August 1, 1993. Employer refused to pay any further medical and temporary disability benefits.

Following a hearing on claimant's request for further medical and temporary disability benefits, the ALJ concluded that claimant had failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that his lung condition was a result of his on-the-job injury and also had failed to prove that the temporary disability from June 9, 1993, through August 1, 1993, was a result of his on-the-job injury. The ALJ denied and dismissed claimant's request for temporary total disability benefits for the June to August 1993 period, and also denied claimant's request for further medical benefits beyond those that employer had already paid.

The Panel reversed the ALJ's denial of temporary total disability benefits on the grounds that employer took no action to withdraw its admission of liability in accordance with Rule IX. It upheld the ALJ's denial of medical benefits on the grounds that employer's admission of liability did not obligate it to pay for all medical treatment but only that treatment that was reasonable and necessary. Because claimant had not proved that all the medical treatment he received was reasonable and necessary, the Panel held that the ALJ did not err in concluding that employer was not liable for further medical expenses beyond those already paid. And, it modified the ALJ's order by ordering employer to pay temporary total disability benefits for the period June 9, 1993, to August 1, 1993.

I.

Claimant contends that, by submitting the admission of liability, employer admitted a causal connection between his on-the-job injury and his lung condition and therefore is liable for all medical expenses he incurred. We disagree.

An employer who has admitted liability for medical benefits can dispute a claimant's need for continued medical benefits. Williams v. Industrial Commission, 723 P.2d 749 (Colo.App.1986).

Although claimant admits that this proposition is "undeniable," he argues that, once an employer files a general admission of liability, the employer can dispute a claimant's need for continued medical benefits only on the three grounds specifically enumerated in Williams, i.e., that the injury is cured, that the treatment is with an unauthorized physician, or that the particular treatment is unnecessary or unreasonable. We decline to so limit the ability to dispute a claimant's entitlement to continued medical benefits where, as here, medical information obtained subsequent to an admission of liability brings into question the compensability of the claimant's injury.

The right to workers' compensation benefits, including medical payments, arises only when an injured employee initially establishes, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the need for medical treatment was proximately caused by an injury arising out of and in the course of the employment. Section 8-41-301, C.R.S. (1996 Cum.Supp.); see Popovich v. Irlando, 811 P.2d 379 (Colo.1991); Seifried v. Industrial Commission, 736 P.2d 1262 (Co...

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