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Grooms v. Inn

Court of Workers Compensation of Montana

July 16, 1996

LINDIA GROOMS Appellant
v.
PONDEROSA INN Employer STATE COMPENSATION INSURANCE FUND/ DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND INDUSTRY Respondents.

          Date Submitted: June 26, 1996

          ORDER AND JUDGMENT

          MIKE McCARTER, JUDGE

         Summary: Claimant, who suffers from a skin condition, filed injury claim with State Fund. Insurer denied the injury claim, but referred claimant for a panel evaluation pursuant to procedures of the Occupational Disease Act. The panel physician could not conclude her condition was occupational and the Department of Labor and Industry notified her the claim was not established. Claimant filed an appeal on constitutional grounds, which the Court treated as a petition for declaratory judgment.

         Held: The medical panel provisions of the Occupational Disease Act, including the requirement that claimant pay for a second evaluation if she makes the request for such, do not violate due process, equal protection, her right to select her own treating physician, or her right to full redress. (Note: WCC was affirmed in Grooms v. Ponderosa Inn, 283 Mont. 459, 942 P.2d 699 (1997).)

         Topics:

Constitutions, Statutes, Regulations and Rules: Montana Constitution: Art. II, section 16. Claimant's constitutional right to full redress is not violated by provision of section 39-72-602, MCA, that she pay for a second panel evaluation conducted at her request. The provision that she pay for a second evaluation at her request does not deprive her of a hearing on her claim. (Note: WCC was affirmed on this ground in Grooms v. Ponderosa Inn, 283 Mont. 459, 942 P.2d 699 (1997).)
Constitutions, Statutes, Regulations and Rules: Montana Code Annotated: section 33-22-111, MCA. The medical panel examination required by section 39-72-602(2)(a), MCA, to establish an occupational disease claim does not deny claimant her right to select a treating physician pursuant to section 33-22-111, MCA. The right to select a physician is limited to selection of a treating physician; examinations by panel physicians are in the nature of independent medical examinations used only for the purpose of assessing occupational disease status. Claimant is not required to undergo treatment with the physician, only examination if she wants to pursue an OD claim. (Note: WCC was affirmed on this ground in Grooms v. Ponderosa Inn, 283 Mont. 459, 942 P.2d 699 (1997).)
Constitutions, Statutes, Regulations and Rules: Montana Code Annotated: section 39-72-602(2)(a), MCA. The medical panel examination required by section 39-72-602(2)(a), MCA, to establish an occupational disease claim does not deny claimant her right to select a treating physician pursuant to section 33-22-111, MCA. The right to select a physician is limited to selection of a treating physician; examinations by panel physicians are in the nature of independent medical examinations used only for the purpose of assessing occupational disease status. Claimant is not required to undergo treatment with the physician, only examination if she wants to pursue an OD claim. (Note: WCC was affirmed on this ground in Grooms v. Ponderosa Inn, 283 Mont. 459, 942 P.2d 699 (1997).)
Constitutions, Statutes, Regulations and Rules: Montana Code Annotated: section 39-72-602, MCA. Claimant's right to equal protection of the laws was not violated by the requirement of section 39-71-602, MCA, that she pay for a second panel examination if she is the party making the request for a second examination. (Note: WCC was affirmed on this ground in Grooms v. Ponderosa Inn, 283 Mont. 459, 942 P.2d 699 (1997).)
Constitutions, Statutes, Regulations and Rules: Montana Code Annotated: section 39-72-602, MCA. Claimant's constitutional right to legal redress is not violated by provision of section 39-72-602, MCA, that she pay for a second panel evaluation conducted at her request. The provision that she pay for a second evaluation at her request does not deprive her of a hearing on her claim. (Note: WCC was affirmed on this ground in Grooms v. Ponderosa Inn, 283 Mont. 459, 942 P.2d 699 (1997).)
Constitutional Law: Due Process: Procedural Due Process. State Compensation Insurance Fund's denial of claim for skin condition as injury and referral to Occupational Disease Panel did not deny claimant due process rights. While claimant argues the insurer denied her injury claim without hearing, she fails to recognize she could have mediated that denial and filed a petition with the Workers' Compensation Court. Instead, she went through a panel doctor examination and dropped the injury contention. (Note: WCC was affirmed on this ground in Grooms v. Ponderosa Inn, 283 Mont. 459, 942 P.2d 699 (1997).)
Constitutional Law: Equal Protection. Claimant's right to equal protection of the laws was not violated by the requirement of section 39-71-602, MCA, that she pay for a second panel examination if she is the party making the request for a second examination. (Note: WCC was affirmed on this ground in Grooms v. Ponderosa Inn, 283 Mont. 459, 942 P.2d 699 (1997).)
Constitutional Law: Full Redress. Claimant's constitutional right to legal redress is not violated by provision of section 39-72-602, MCA, that she pay for a second panel evaluation conducted at her request. The provision that she pay for a second evaluation at her request does not deprive her of a hearing on her claim. (Note: WCC was affirmed on this ground in Grooms v. Ponderosa Inn, 283 Mont. 459, 942 P.2d 699 (1997).)

         This case comes to the Court by way of an appeal from an order of the Department of Labor and Industry (Department).

         The appellant, Lindia Grooms (Grooms), underwent an occupational disease panel examination. Based on the report of the examining physician, on July 21, 1995, the Department entered an Order Referring Copy of Medical Reports to Parties. In that order the Department notified Grooms and the insurer, State Compensation Insurance Fund (State Fund), that:

         Based on the attached report of the first examining physician, the Department's preliminary determination concerning the claimant's claim for occupational disease benefits is the claim would be denied and the claimant would not be entitled to receive benefits under the Occupational Disease Act.

         The order went on to notify the parties that either of them could request a further examination by a second panel physician or they could request a hearing. Any second examination was to be paid for by the requesting party.

         Grooms responded by requesting the Department to pay for a second examination. The Department declined. She then challenged the constitutionality of the medical panel statutes. She presented that challenge by way of a request for a hearing. However, she thereafter moved to dismiss her own petition on the ground that the Department did not have jurisdiction to consider constitutional issues. The Department's hearing officer agreed and dismissed the petition. This appeal followed.

         Factual ...


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