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Hedger v. Montana Schools Group Authority

Court of Workers Compensation of Montana

September 16, 1994

JAMES HEDGER Petitioner
v.
MONTANA SCHOOLS GROUP AUTHORITY Respondent/Insurer for GREAT FALLS PUBLIC SCHOOLS Employer.

          ORDER FOR INDEPENDENT PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION

          Mike McCarter JUDGE

         Montana Schools Group Insurance Authority (MSGIA) has requested the Court to authorize it to schedule an independent psychological evaluation of petitioner, James Hedger (Hedger). Hedger opposes this request.

         Background

         On December 15, 1989, Hedger suffered an industrial injury to his head and spine while employed with the Great Falls Public Schools. Following a hearing before a hearing examiner of this Court, Hedger was determined to be "presently permanently totally disabled". In his decision the hearing examiner further stated, "In the event the defendant does have medical and vocational evidence that the claimant no longer meets the definition of permanent total disability, an appropriate petition may be filed with this Court." James Hedger v. Montana Schools Group Authority, WCC No. 9209-6584 (May 7, 1993).

         Thereafter, MSGIA scheduled Hedger for an independent medical examination [IME] by Dr. Robert Chambers. Hedger did not appear for the scheduled examination and MSGIA cut off benefits. Hedger then obtained an execution from the Court and attempted to levy. The Court then became involved in the IME dispute and ultimately ordered the IME by Dr. Chambers and a reinstatement of Mr. Hedger's benefits. Order Directing Reinstatement of Benefits and Medical Examination (October 19, 1993).

         Dr. Chambers thereafter examined the claimant. In a November 17, 1993 report of his examination, Dr. Chambers states in part:

Improvement of his [Hedger's] condition would depend upon the success of psychological evaluation and counseling, with respect to many aspects of his personal life, including his suspected fear of reinjury. Based on this examiner's impression derived from the medical record and the encounter today, the prognosis for improvement is guarded.
Nonetheless, if psychological intervention proved effective, and Mr. Hedger could achieve a necessary degree of insight into the nature of his current life's problems, and be motivated to participate in the improvement of his own condition, a rehabilitation program might be successful, a detoxification program might be successful, and it is certainly conceivable that he could return to gainful employment for the remainder of his productive years.

         The full report is attached to a February 14, 1994 Request for Telephonic Hearing made by MSGIA.

         Subsequent to Dr. Chamber's examination and report, MSGIA scheduled Hedger for an IME by Dr. John Mendenhall, who is a psychiatrist. Hedger disputed MSGIA's authority for the examination and the dispute was brought to the Court's attention through MSGIA's February 14, 1994 Request for Telephonic Hearing. A conference call with counsel was held on February 23, 1994, and resulted in the Court directing that the matter be briefed.

         On March 18, 1994, MSGIA filed a Request for Independent Medical Evaluation, along with a supporting brief. Hedger thereafter responded. He contends that MSGIA has had its IME and the doctrine of res judicata precludes any further IME. Brief in Opposition to Request for Independent Psychological Evaluation at 6.

         Discussion

         The Court treats MSGIA's request as one for a declaratory ruling. Since the issue raised by the request follows on the heels of the Court's prior adjudication of Hedger's disability, and the present dispute concerns, in part, the effect of that adjudication, the matter has been docketed under the docket number of the original case.

         The insurer's right to an IME is addressed in section 39-71-605, MCA. Section ...


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