In re Compensation of Langan, 111721 ORWC, 20-02116

Docket NºWCB 20-02116
Case DateNovember 17, 2021
73 Van Natta 896 (2021)
In the Matter of the Compensation of DAVID LANGAN, Claimant
WCB No. 20-02116
Oregon Worker Compensation
November 17, 2021
          Welch Bruun & Green, Claimant Attorneys           MacColl Busch Sato PC, Defense Attorneys           Reviewing Panel: Members Ceja and Curey.          ORDER ON REVIEW          The self-insured employer requests review of Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Mills's order that: (1) excluded termination records submitted by the employer; and (2) set aside the employer's denial of claimant's injury claim for an upper back/neck condition. On review, the issues are the ALJ's evidentiary ruling and compensability.          We adopt and affirm the ALJ's order with the following supplementation.          Evidence          The ALJ declined to admit Exhibits 26, 27, and 28, into the record because they pertained the employer's termination of claimant and were not relevant to the instant injury claim.          On review, employer contends that it was an abuse of discretion for the ALJ to exclude Exhibits 26, 27, and 28, because they are relevant to claimant's credibility. For the following reasons, we find no abuse of discretion in the ALJ's evidentiary ruling.          We review the ALJ's evidentiary ruling for abuse of discretion. See SAIF v. Kurcin, 334 Or 399, 409 (2002). An ALJ has broad discretion regarding the admissibility of evidence. See Brown v. SAIF, 51 Or App 389, 394 (1981). An ALJ is not bound by common law or statutory rules of evidence or by technical or formal rules of procedure and may conduct a hearing in any manner that will achieve substantial justice. See ORS 656.283(6). If the record would support a decision by the ALJ to either grant or deny the motion, the ALJ's ruling is not an abuse of discretion. See Kurcin, 334 Or at 406.          Here, the proffered exhibits consisted of text messages, notes, and a letter pertaining to the employer's June 30, 2020, termination of claimant. (Exs. 26 - 28; Tr. 2). Yet, claimant's termination is not at issue in this case. Further, the exhibits did not discuss the work event or the disability/treatment relevant to this injury claim. (Exs. 26 - 28). Under such circumstances, the record supports the ALJ's decision to exclude Exhibits 26, 27, and 28, based on a lack of relevance. (Exs. 26 - 28; Tr. 2); see Kurcin, 334 Or at 406. Accordingly, we find no abuse of discretion in the ALJ's evidentiary ruling. See ORS 656.283(6); Brown, 51 Or App at 394.          [73 Van Natta 897] Moreover, consideration of the excluded exhibits would not change our determinations regarding the reliability of claimant's material testimony or whether the injury claim is compensable. Specifically, because the record as a whole supports claimant's testimony regarding the work event (as reasoned below), a lack of truthfulness regarding an unrelated employment matter would not cause us to find his material testimony unreliable in this case. See Kenneth E. Brandle, [62 Van Natta 402], 404 (2010) (the claimant's material testimony was credible where it was supported by the record as a whole despite inconsistencies in the claimant's testimony regarding another matter); Dale E. Lawson, [55 Van Natta 2976], 2977 (2003) (although surveillance video evidence impeached the claimant's testimony regarding recreational activities, it did not impeach the claimant's testimony regarding the work injury).          Compensability          The ALJ found that the record persuasively established the compensability of claimant's injury claim. Accordingly, the ALJ set aside the employer's denial.[1]          On review, the employer contends that claimant's injury claim is not compensable because the record does not persuasively establish legal or medical causation. Based on the following reasoning, we disagree with the employer's contentions.          Claimant must prove both legal and medical causation by a preponderance of the evidence. See Harris v. Farmer's Co-op Creamery, 53 Or App 618, rev den, 291 Or 893 (1981); Carolyn F. Weigel, 53 Van Natta , off d without opinion, 184 Or App 761 (2002). Legal causation is established by showing that claimant engaged in potentially causative work activities; whether those work activities caused claimant's disability or need for treatment is a question of medical causation. See Robert L. Cross, 72 Van Natta ; Darla Litten, [55 Van Natta 925], 926 (2003).          [73 Van Natta 898] Whether claimant established legal causation hinges principally on his credibility. See Cross, 72 Van Natta at 109. Where, as here, the ALJ did not make a credibility finding (demeanor-based or...

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