Laskey v. S.D. Warren Co.

774 A.2d 358 (2001)

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Laskey v. S.D. Warren Co.

Maine Supreme Judicial Court
774 A.2d 358 (2001)

Facts

George Laskey (plaintiff) was employed by S. D. Warren Co. (SD) (defendant) when he was injured during work in 1984. Laskey received partial-incapacity benefits. In 1998 SD filed a petition for review, arguing that the work-related incapacity had ended. The Workers’ Compensation Board (the board) appointed an independent medical examiner (IME), Dr. Steward Russell, to examine Laskey. In 1999 Dr. Russell found that Laskey’s injury had resolved and that the ongoing incapacity was not related to the work incident. In May 1999, Laskey sent a letter to the deputy director of medical/rehabilitation services of the board (the director), arguing that Dr. Russell had a conflict of interest. The director referred the issue to the hearing officer. Dr. Russell would not respond to the interrogatories sent by Laskey, claiming it was a waste of time. A deposition of Dr. Russell was conducted in August 1999. Dr. Russell testified that within the year prior to Laskey’s examination, Dr. Russell charged $850 per examination, earning about $240,000 annually from medical examinations. Dr. Russell testified that 90 to 95 percent of examinations were at the employer’s request and 95 percent of examinations were for insurance companies, employers, or defense counsel, and that he had various consultantships with employers. The hearing officer disqualified Dr. Russell based on a conflict of interest due to the percentage of work done, and income earned, from examinations requested by insurance companies, employers, and defense counsel. The hearing officer found that Dr. Russell should not have been assigned as an IME. SD filed a motion requesting further findings regarding the timeliness of Laskey’s objection, but the hearing officer denied SD’s motion. The issue was referred to the full board for review. The board denied the request. SD appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Alexander, J.)

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