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Impairments For Related Body Parts That Result In A Synergistic Effect” May Be Added Rather Than Combined

DIAZ vs. STATE OF CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS

(2015) 2015 Cal. Wrk. Comp. P.D. Lexis 683

Applicant, parole officer, alleged injury to multiple body parts including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), psyche and spine during the period February 1, 1998 through February 22, 2011. Following trial, the Workers’ Compensation Judge made an award of 93% permanent disability, after apportionment. The award was based on reports from Agreed Medical Examiners in internal medicine and orthopedics. In addressing the internal medicine issues, the Workers’ Compensation Judge added the impairments for GERD and IBS rather than using the combined values chart.

The defendant filed a Petition for Reconsideration, arguing that the workers compensation judge acted improperly in adding the impairments.

The WCAB denied the petition and adopted and incorporated the Workers’ Compensation Judge’s Report and Recommendation. The Workers’ Compensation Judge explained that the adding of impairments was supported by the case of Athens Administrators vs. WCAB (Kite). In order to add impairments, the medical record must show that the body parts involved rely upon each other in a unique way, resulting in a “synergistic effect” on their function. Here, the medical records reflect that the impairments to the upper and lower digestive tracts in the form of GERD and IBS created such a “synergistic effect”. Consequently, adding the impairments was appropriate.

However, the Workers Compensation Judge pointed out that he had rejected the applicant’s argument that the impairments for the injury to psyche and spine should also be added because they did not meet the criteria set forth in Kite.