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04/17/92 HARRY B. STEWART v. DISTRICT COLUMBIA

April 17, 1992

HARRY B. STEWART, PETITIONER
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT SERVICES, RESPONDENT, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA REALTY AND DEVELOPMENT CORP. & LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, INTERVENORS



Petition for Review of a Decision of the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services.

Before Schwelb, Farrell, and King, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schwelb

SCHWELB, Associate Judge: Harry B. Stewart has requested this court to review a ruling by a Hearing and Appeals Examiner of the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services (DOES or the agency) denying him benefits pursuant to the District of Columbia Workers Compensation Act of 1979 (the Act), D.C. Code § 36-301 et seq. (1988). He contends that the examiner's decision is not supported by substantial evidence and that it rests on incorrect legal principles. We affirm.

I

Most of the relevant facts are undisputed. On August 1, 1984, while employed by D.C. Realty and Development Corporation (the employer), Stewart, then approximately fifty-six years old, fell from a scaffold. He suffered six broken ribs on the right side of his chest, as well as fractures of his skull and left wrist and a collapsed lung. Stewart was disabled by the accident, and he has since been in almost continual pain on the right side of his chest. From the time of the accident to the present, Stewart has sought and received medical treatment. *fn1 The employer does not dispute the compensability of the treatment for Stewart's initial injuries.

In July 1987, almost three years after his fall from the scaffold, Stewart experienced an episode of sharp epigastric chest pain, accompanied by shortness of breath. Although he had suffered some epigastric discomfort previously, the new pain was of a different character. By November 1987, Stewart had suffered two additional attacks of this type.

Following the November 1987 episode, Stewart consulted his physician, Dr. Robert Guedenet. Because Stewart's family history and medical history indicated that he was at high risk for cardiac problems, *fn2 Dr. Guedenet referred him to George Washington University Medical Center (GWUMC) for a cardiac catheterization. The purpose of this procedure was to determine whether Stewart's new pains were caused by severe coronary artery disease.

The tests at GWU, which were conducted under the supervision of Harold Ross, M.D., revealed only minor irregularities of the coronary arteries. Dr. Ross recommended "medical management of what at present is mild coronary artery disease."

Following his stay at GWUMC, Stewart requested compensation for the treatment expenses from his employer pursuant to the Act. The employer declined to pay, contending that the treatment was not job-related and that it had not been caused by Stewart's 1984 injury. Stewart filed a timely claim with DOES, asking that the employer be ordered to pay his medical expenses, as well as interest and penalties. On October 10, 1989, Stewart's claim was heard by a DOES appeals and hearing examiner.

Stewart was the only witness at the hearing. In contending that the treatment was compensable, Stewart also relied on several letters or reports from his treating physician, James Hopkins, M.D., and on the pertinent records from GWUMC. In opposing Stewart's claim, the employer relied largely on a report from Michael Goldman, M.D., who had examined Stewart on behalf of the employer's insurance carrier.

After considering the evidence, the hearing examiner issued a written decision. The examiner found that the expenses incurred by Stewart in connection with his treatment at GWUMC were not causally related to his 1984 accident. Stewart sought review by the Director of the agency, who took no formal action, thus permitting the examiner's decision to become final. See D.C. Code § 36-322 (2) (1988). Stewart then filed a timely petition for review by this court.

II

Stewart contends that the hearing examiner's findings are not supported by substantial evidence and that the hearing examiner misapplied the law. Where an administrative decision is ...


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