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Sather v. State Compensation Insurance Fund

Court of Workers Compensation of Montana

March 14, 1994

JOYCE RIDGEWAY SATHER Petitioner
v.
STATE COMPENSATION INSURANCE FUND Respondent.

          DECISION AND ORDER ON APPEAL

          Mike McCarter JUDGE

         This is an appeal from a decision of the Montana Department of Labor and Industry (DLI), which is set forth in Findings Of Fact; Conclusions Of Law; Order entered by Gordon Bruce, a DLI hearing examiner. The DLI decision determined that appellant, Joyce Ridgeway Sather (Sather), is capable of returning to work as a motel clerk. Sather appeals.

         Factual Background

         Sather injured her back on October 30, 1990, while employed as a dry cleaner. (Tr. at 6-7, Ex. No. 5.) She underwent back surgery for a herniated lumbar disc in March of 1991. On September 13, 1991, Dr. Donald See performed an independent medical evaluation and concluded that Sather had reached maximum medical recovery. Sather's treating physician, Dr. J.V. Matthews, restricted her to occasional lifting and carrying up to a maximum of 20-25 pounds and more frequent lifting/carrying up to a maximum of 10-15 pounds. He also concluded that Sather could not safely return to her former job as a dry cleaner.

         Sather was referred to a rehabilitation provider pursuant to the provisions of chapter 71, part 10 of Title 71, MCA (1989). The rehabilitation provider identified three jobs as suited to Sather's education and skills. Dr. Matthews approved all three jobs.

         A rehabilitation panel was then empaneled pursuant to section 39-71-1015, 1016, MCA. The panel concluded that the first appropriate return to work option for Sather was option (c) of section 39-71-1012, MCA, which is "return to a related occupation suited to the claimant's education and marketable skills." The panel identified the position of motel clerk as suited to claimant's education and marketable skills. The position was medically approved by Dr. Matthews and the panel verified that it was typically available "within the claimant's local and/or state wide job pool." (Ex. No. 11.) On May 21, 1992, the DLI issued a Final Order of Determination designating option (c) as the appropriate rehabilitation option. (Ex. No. 13.)

         Sather then requested a hearing. The hearing was held on April 13, 1993. A decision affirming the panel report was issued on June 10, 1993. On June 25, 1993 Sather filed a notice of appeal with this Court, styled Claimant's Petition for Appeal to the Worker's [Sic] Compensation Judge.

         Grounds For Appeal

         Sather contends that she does not possess the requisite skills to work as a motel clerk and that she should be retrained.

         Standard Of Review

         Section 39-71-1018, MCA, provides for an appeal to the Workers' Compensation Court from the DLI's final order. Review of that order is governed by section 2-4-704(2), MCA, which provides in relevant part:

         (2) The court may not substitute its judgement for that of the agency as to the weight of the evidence on questions of fact. The court may affirm the decision of the agency or remand the case for further proceedings. The court may reverse or modify the decision if substantial rights of the appellant have been prejudiced because:

         (a) The administrative findings, inferences, ...


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