Board Releases Opinion Allowing MIRR Evaluation to Proceed

By Jane Salem, staff attorney, Nashville

When a party requests an evaluation from the Bureau’s Medical Impairment Rating Registry, the opposing party can’t object on the basis that the party manufactured a dispute over the rating by hiring an expert to perform a records review.

The Appeals Board announced this legal principle yesterday in Gray v. Conagra Foods Packaged Foods Co., Inc. 

In the case, Katie Gray suffered a work-related injury to her finger and developed complications in her hand. She was later diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome.

The authorized treating physician assigned a permanent medical impairment rating. Conagra then hired a physician to review medical records and give an opinion on the rating. Afterward, because the opinions differed, Conagra requested an impairment evaluation through the Medical Impairment Rating Registry, also known as the “MIRR.” Gray moved to quash the request, contending that a medical records review is an insufficient basis to support the existence of a dispute about the rating.

The trial court denied the employee’s motion, and the Board affirmed in a memo opinion.

The three-judge Board reminded that the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel addressed a similar factual scenario in Williams v. Ajax Turner Co.

In Williams, the employee contended that the employer “created a dispute” by hiring an independent medical examiner. The employee argued that only an injured worker, not an employer, should be able to seek a second opinion on the issue of impairment. The Panel disagreed, explaining that the statute allows “either party” to request an MIRR evaluation when a dispute exists as to the degree of medical impairment.

Writing for the Board, Presiding Judge Timothy Conner held that “[n]othing in the statute or regulations prevents either party from obtaining a second opinion on the issue of permanent medical impairment. Likewise, nothing in the statute or regulations prohibits either party from seeking that opinion based on a review of medical records.”

He added, “If there are broader policy considerations impacting the construction or application of the MIRR Program, those concerns should be presented to the General Assembly.”

The opinion reviewed an interlocutory order, so it can’t be appealed.

Foggy Sunrise

Photo by Kim Weaver, legal assistant, Knoxville.

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