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Town of Kiowa v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office.

2024 COA 36. No. 23CA1605. Workers’ Compensation—Definitive Time, Place, and Cause of Injury—Substantial Evidence—Due Process.

April 11, 2024

The Town of Kiowa (Kiowa) employed Berends as a public works manager responsible for maintaining heavy machinery. He injured his head on April 30, 2020, while repairing a chain on a street sweeper, but he did not immediately report the injury. On May 26, 2020, Berends required emergency treatment for a subdural hematoma (SDH). Berends subsequently filed a workers’ compensation claim, and Kiowa denied that his injury was work-related. Following a hearing, an administrative law judge (ALJ) issued findings of fact and conclusions of law concluding that Berends had suffered a work-related injury to his head in the course and scope of his employment. The ALJ ordered Kiowa to pay all authorized, reasonably necessary, and related medical benefits, and temporary total disability benefits beginning May 27, 2020, until terminated by law. A panel of the Industrial Claim Appeals Office (panel) affirmed the ALJ’s order.

On appeal, Kiowa argued that the panel incorrectly interpreted and applied the standards for establishing a compensable injury, arguing that the record did not establish a definitive time, place, and cause of the SDH. However, substantial evidence supported the panel’s conclusion that Berends established a definitive time, place, and cause of his injury, including the testimony of Berends, his wife, and his surgeon. Further, Kiowa’s disagreement with the ALJ’s findings as to causation constitute an impermissible attack on the ALJ’s credibility determinations and evaluation of the expert testimony.

Kiowa also contended that the panel’s order violated Kiowa’s due process rights. Here, however, the panel undertook a complete substantive examination of the record and explained its decision in a lengthy discussion of the ALJ’s findings and conclusions of law. Further, there was no improper burden shifting.

Kiowa further contended that because Berends’s claim was not submitted until February 2021, it is not responsible for medical care before that time. Here, the ALJ found that Kiowa was liable for Berends’s care beginning on May 26, 2020, and the record clearly supports a finding that Kiowa had notice at least by that date and failed to provide Berends a designated list of medical providers until February 2021.

The court of appeals also determined that Kiowa’s several evidentiary and procedural arguments lacked merit.

The order was affirmed.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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