Enos v. Gerrity Industries
Maine Employers' Mutual Insurance Company
February 12, 2019
CategoriesBoard IME Mental Stress Injury Procedure
Respiratory Pre-Existing Suicide Death Benefits Mental Stress IME§312 Clear and Convincing
Summary from the Troubh Heisler Attorneys
Mr. Enos claimed a respiratory injury in March 2014 from an odor in the cab of his work vehicle. He received minimal medical treatment and continued to work full time. A year after the injury, his respiratory condition worsened, but his doctors could not determine the cause. He also had pre-existing anxiety and depression, which was exacerbated by the inability of his doctors to identify the cause of his respiratory condition. He committed suicide in May 2015, and his estate filed petitions, asserting a causal link between his respiratory injury and his suicide, and demanding payment of death benefits.
Pursuant to §312, the Board appointed a pulmonary specialist and a psychiatrist to review the medical records, including Gerrity’s §207 exam report. The pulmonary IME found that Mr. Enos’s work-related respiratory injury resolved fairly quickly, before his mental state worsened. The psychiatric IME found that his respiratory injury did not cause his depression and ultimate suicide and was instead the result of his pre-existing psychosis. Judge Goodnough adopted the IMEs’ opinions over the those of Mr. Enos's doctors and awarded the Estate the protection of the Act for a transient respiratory injury but denying death benefits.
The Estate appealed, but the WCB appellate panel noted §312 requires the Board to adopt the IMEs’ medical findings absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. Although the estate presented contrary evidence at hearing, the panel found ample evidence in the record to support Judge Goodnough's decision. The estate also argued that Judge Goodnough should have applied §201 (3), which covers mental injuries caused by work-related stress. The panel disagreed, noting that the Estate did not claim or prove a mental stress injury from work. Instead, the Estate argued the mental stress was a sequela of his physical respiratory injury. The estate argued that Judge Goodnough’s factual findings were not supported by the evidence, but the panel disagreed, finding support in the medical records.
Finally, the Estate argued on appeal that Judge Goodnough should not have admitted the §207 report into evidence or allow the IME to consider it, nor should he have allowed Gerrity’s witnesses to testify by referring to unidentified documents or a laptop screen. The panel pointed out that the Estate failed to preserve these issues for appellate review, and that the medical reports were admitted into evidence and sent to the IME doctors without objection from the estate. The panel found no errors on appeal and therefore affirmed the decision.