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Back injury ruling goes against Calif. comp board


SAN FRANCISCO--A state appeals court has rejected a California Workers' Compensation Appeals Board decision that improperly relied on American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine guidelines to conclude a worker did not need spinal surgery.

California's 1st Appellate District found in James Laing vs. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, Kaiser Engineers et al. that the appeals board ruling was improper because the ACOEM guidelines the board relied on are for acute, lower back problems and not for the chronic condition from which Mr. Laing suffered.

The appeals board acknowledged in its decision that the ACEOM guidelines it applied do not specifically address Mr. Laing's condition, but it relied on the guidelines anyway.

The unpublished appeals' court decision stems from a lower back industrial injury Mr. Laing suffered in 1987.

In 2006, his treating physician recommended surgery, but his employer rejected the procedure, and an "agreed medical examiner" selected by both parties recommended no surgery.

The appeals board agreed. But the appeals court remanded the case with directions for the appeals board to issue a new decision after obtaining another medical opinion.