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Reyes. v. District of Columbia Department of Employment Services

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

December 29, 2016

JOSEPHINE REYES., Petitioner,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT SERVICES, Respondent.

          Argued June 3, 2016

         On Petition for Review from an Order of the Compensation Review Board (CRB-158-14)

          Michael J. McAuliffe for petitioner.

          Lucy E. Pittman, Assistant Attorney General, with whom Karl A. Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, and Loren L. AliKhan, Deputy Solicitor General, were on the brief, for respondent.

          BEFORE: EASTERLY and MCLEESE, Associate Judges; and NEBEKER, Senior Judge.

         JUDGMENT

         This case came to be heard on the administrative record, a certified copy of the agency hearing transcript and the briefs filed, and was argued by counsel. On consideration whereof, and as set forth in the opinion filed this date, it is now hereby

         ORDERED and ADJUDGED that the matter is remanded to the Compensation Review Board so it can address the merits of the Administrative Law Judge's determination that petitioner's right knee condition was causally related to her January 2011 workplace injury.

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM.

         Dr. Josephine Reyes, the petitioner, is challenging the Compensation Review Board's (CRB) determination that a Department of Employment Services (DOES) Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) lacked jurisdiction to consider her claim, based on an injury to her right knee, for workers' compensation benefits under the Public Sector Workers' Compensation Program ("the Program"). Although Dr. Reyes had given the Program notice of other claims in connection with a workplace injury, she did not give notice of her right knee claim. Nonetheless the Program reviewed the right knee claim and determined that it was not causally related to her work place injury, denying her benefits. The DOES ALJ reversed this determination. The CRB then reversed the DOES ALJ, concluding that the ALJ did not have jurisdiction under D.C. Code § 1-623.24 (b)(1) (2014 Repl.) to hear this claim, even though the Program actually adversely decided the causal relationship issue, because petitioner had not given the Program proper notice of that claim. We conclude that the CRB, mistakenly relying on an inapposite and unpublished decision from this court, misinterpreted the jurisdictional requirements of D.C. Code § 1-623.24 (b)(1). Thus we reverse and remand.

         I. Procedural History

         In January 2011, Dr. Reyes, a psychiatrist at St. Elizabeths Hospital, suffered a workplace injury after she was attacked by a patient. She filed a claim for temporary total disability benefits with the Program and provided written notice of multiple injuries to her face, head, and back, but did not at the outset note her right knee pain. Dr. Reyes was awarded temporary total disability benefits. Dr. Reyes did not return to work until August 2011; thereafter she was notified that her disability benefits had been terminated.

         In October 2012, Dr. Reyes received notice that the Program was closing her workers' compensation claim and that all benefits would be terminated. The Program relied primarily on an independent medical examination conducted by Dr. Stanley Rothschild, who assessed Dr. Reyes's assertion that her right knee was injured in connection with the assault on January 2011. Dr. Rothschild opined that Dr. Reyes's "current complications to the knee [were not] related to the accident." After the Program denied her workers' compensation benefits on this basis, Dr. Reyes requested reconsideration. The Program denied her request for reconsideration, issuing a Final Decision upholding its determination to terminate her benefits.

         Dr. Reyes requested and received a formal hearing before a DOES ALJ. The ALJ issued an order concluding that Dr. Reyes's right knee condition was causally related to the January 2011 work incident and ordering continued payment of benefits. The District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General (OAG), on behalf of Dr. Reyes's employer, the Department of Mental Health (DMH), appealed to the CRB, arguing that the ALJ had no jurisdiction to make such a ...


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