NEWS / Legal News - July 2019

Supreme Court confirmed the compensation judge is not required to individually analyze each criteria of a PTSD diagnosis

Smith v. Carver County

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

A deputy sheriff claimed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). His job duties exposed him to numerous situations involving death and injury, including vehicle accidents, shootings, and homicides. The employee’s expert opined he had PTSD, whereas the employer and insurer’s expert, Dr. Paul Arbisi, found he did not.

The compensation judge found Dr. Arbisi’s opinion more persuasive and ruled in favor of the employer and insurer.

The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) reversed the decision of the compensation judge. It held that Dr. Arbisi’s opinion did not conform to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed. 2013 (DSM-5) criteria for determining PTSD. 

The Supreme Court reversed the WCCA. It held that a compensation judge need not consider whether a medical professional’s opinion conformed with the precise wording of the DSM. Instead, a compensation judge must simply determine whether an expert has an adequate foundation for his/her opinion. The PTSD statute only requires that a diagnosis must be based on the most recent version of the DSM.

The Supreme Court has confirmed once again that in almost all cases, the compensation judge’s selection of an expert opinion will be upheld. In light of this decision, in cases involving a dispute between experts, the hearing result will likely be the final result.

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