Guttierez v. Industrial Commission of ArizonaAnnotate this Case
A state administrative rule provides that a physician should rate an injured worker's impairment using standards set forth in the "most recent edition" of the American Medical Association Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides). Appellee Jesus Gutierrez injured his back in 2007 while working for a framing company. His claim for workers' compensation was accepted and he received medical treatment. The treating physician later released Appellee to return to work with physical restrictions. Concluding that Appellee was not permanently impaired, the insurance carrier (the "carrier") closed the claim. Appellee requested a hearing to challenge the "no impairment" determination. At the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA) hearings, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) heard testimony from two physicians: Appellee's treating physician and one presented by the carrier. Appellee's physician relied on the Fifth Edition of the AMA Guides; the carrier's physician relied on the Sixth Edition. Based on the insurance carrier's expert, the ALJ found that the carrier did not err in closing Appellee's claim. On special review, the appellate court affirmed the ALJ's decision. The issue before the Supreme Court was framed to address whether "the most recent edition" as specified in the Arizona Administrative Rules refers to the edition that was most recent when the Rule was promulgated or the latest edition existing when the claimant's impairment was rated. The Supreme Court on review of the lower courts' decisions found that the Rule's "fair and sensible meaning" anticipated that the guides would change and that "an evolving standard was intended." The Court affirmed the award and decision of the ICA.