Court in Okla. Grapples with Medical Law

Article excerpt

The courts have once again highlighted the limitations of a 2005 law designed to give the employer more power in workers' compensation cases.

Senate Bill 1X, passed by the Oklahoma Legislature in a special session in June 2005, gave the employer the authority to assign the treating physician for an injured worker.

If the employer and employee cannot agree on a physician, the law allows the court to appoint an independent medical examiner.

The law was intended to reduce or eliminate the problem of "dueling doctors," wherein the physician hired by the employer and the physician hired by the employee present conflicting information to the court regarding the extent of the worker's injures.

Since the law went into effect, however, the courts have taken the position that the law does not and cannot prevent the injured worker from introducing testimony from their own physician regarding the extent of their injuries, and that the courts may consider competent medical evidence presented by the worker.

In ESS America vs. Vickie Marie Stewart and the Workers' Compensation Court, the employer's chosen physician, Steven Coupens, M.D., concluded that claimant Stewart had suffered a total of 6- percent permanent partial disability after having surgery on a torn rotator cuff. Stewart submitted to the court a medical report from her chosen physician, Lance Rosson, D.O., claiming Stewart had sustained a 34-percent permanent partial disability as a result of her injury.

The Workers' Compensation Court found Stewart had sustained 30- percent permanent partial disability, clearly relying at least in part on the report issued by the worker's physician.

Employer ESS America objected to the Workers' Compensation Court's ruling, appealing the case to the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals. …