COA affirms Notre Dame not responsible for treatment unrelated to work injury

January 22, 2015

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed on Thursday the decision by the Worker’s Compensation Board that a University of Notre Dame employee had reached maximum medical improvement from her work-related injury.

Sin-Mi Ward worked in a dining hall at Notre Dame when she slipped on a floor on campus and inured her foot and ankle. Notre Dame authorized medical treatment for her injury, which included injections, pain management treatment and surgery.

Nearly two years after her injury, she filed an application for adjustment of claim disputing that her injuries had reached a permanent and quiescent state and that Notre Dame had paid all the benefits to which she was entitled. She was examined by several doctors – her treating physician, a doctor appointed by the Worker’s Compensation Board, and two others she paid for her. The question was whether she was suffering from reflex sympathy dystrophy or complex regional pain syndrome.

A single hearing member of the board found based on the evidence that Ward’s injuries had reached maximum medical improvement and Notre Dame was responsible for payment of only those medical expenses for authorized treatment incurred and unpaid prior to the determination that her injury had reached maximum medical improvement. The hearing member also found that her claim regarding treatment for her depression, anxiety or cardiac-related issues was not supported by sufficient medical evidence and Ward should bear the expense for that treatment.

She appealed and appeared before the full board pro se, which affirmed the findings of the single hearing member.

Using a deferential standard of review of the full board’s award, the COA affirmed in Sin-Mi Ward v. University of Notre Dame, 93A02-1405-EX-317. The judges noted that the single hearing member and the full board considered all the evidence presented and found certain evidence credible. They declined to reweigh the evidence or reassess witness credibility. The full board’s determination that Ward presented insufficient medical evidence to support her claim that Notre Dame should bear the expense of her treatment for depression, anxiety and cardiac issues is supported by the record.

The judges also rejected Ward’s claim that the report by the board-appointed physician should not have been considered because he used the term “Oriental” to describe Ward in his report. But Ward waived her argument because prior to the hearing before the single hearing member, Ward stipulated to the admissibility of facts and exhibits, including that doctor’s report. In addition, there’s no evidence that the use of that term undermined the validity of the doctor’s opinion, the COA ruled.



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