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Rish v. Home Depot, Inc.

Supreme Court of Idaho

February 28, 2017

CHANNEL (BLACKER) RISH, Claimant-Appellant,
v.
THE HOME DEPOT, INC., Employer, and INSURANCE COMPANY OF THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA, Surety, Defendants-Respondents.

         2017 Opinion No. 22

         Appeal from the Industrial Commission.

         Industrial Commission order denying benefits, vacated and remanded for further proceedings.

          Curtis & Porter, PA, Idaho Falls, for appellant.

          Andrew A. Adams argued.

          Bowen & Bailey, LLP, Boise, for respondents.

          W. Scott Wigle argued.

          BURDICK, Chief Justice.

         This appeal arises from an Industrial Commission (the Commission) order denying medical care benefits to Channel Rish. The Commission held that Idaho's Worker's Compensation Act did not require Respondents to pay for the medical care Rish received after she achieved maximum medical improvement because that medical care was deemed unreasonable. On appeal, Rish contends the Commission's order is not supported by substantial and competent evidence, and moreover, the Commission misapplied the governing legal standard when determining whether the medical care was reasonable. We vacate and remand.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Rish worked as a cashier at Home Depot. While working on October 30, 2005, Rish slipped on a floor mat and injured her right knee. The injury ultimately required Rish to undergo three knee surgeries, which Dr. Casey Huntsman performed in 2005, 2006, and 2007.

         On August 9, 2007, [1] roughly three months after Rish's third surgery, Dr. Huntsman concluded Rish had achieved maximum medical improvement (MMI). Dr. Huntsman, however, further noted that Rish "definitely needs . . . continued pain management" with Dr. Holly Zoe.

         To that end, Rish visited Dr. Zoe for pain management treatment. But because that treatment did not improve Rish's knee pain, Respondents grew skeptical as to Rish's continued medical care and surmised that Rish was merely seeing Dr. Zoe to get pain medication. Therefore, in January 2008, Respondents arranged for Rish to receive an independent medical examination (IME) with Drs. Robert Friedman and Christian Gussner. Those doctors concluded Rish had not yet achieved MMI and recommended Rish attend a chronic pain management program while being weaned off pain medication. Rish never attended that chronic pain management program and instead continued seeing Dr. Zoe for treatment throughout 2008.

         As such, Respondents remained skeptical as to Rish's continued medical care with Dr. Zoe. Thus, in January 2009, Respondents arranged for Rish to receive another IME, this time with Drs. Christian Gussner and Michael McClay, a psychologist. Dr. Gussner "was unable to detect any ongoing problem with [Rish's] right knee" and recommended she stop taking pain medication. Dr. McClay concluded Rish had a "long history of personal problems and medical problems" and ...


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