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The last two sentences of Code Me. R. § 90-351-004, § 2(6)(C) specify that a hearing officer has the authority to disqualify an independent medical examiner for general contacts with the industry if such contacts are not disclosed to the deputy director of dispute resolution and come to light during the hearing.
George M. Laskey suffered a work-related injury while employed by S.D. Warren in 1984. Since then, he has received partial incapacity benefits. S.D. Warren filed a petition for review in 1998, contending that Laskey's work-related incapacity had diminished or ended. At S.D. Warren's request, the Board appointed Stewart Russell as the independent medical examiner (IME). Dr. Russell opined that Laskey's 1984 injury had resolved and that his ongoing incapacity was unrelated to that incident. Subsequently, Laskey sent a letter to the Deputy Director of Medical/Rehabilitation Services of the Board contending that Dr. Russell had a conflict of interest pursuant to Me. W.C.B. Rule, ch. 4, § 2(6) (C). The Deputy Director referred the issue to the Hearing Officer. After conducting a deposition, the Hearing Officer disqualified Dr. Russell for a conflict of interest, finding that the latter had several consultantships with different Employers during the 52-week period prior to the examination for which he received payment. The employer appealed.
Did the Hearing Officer err in disqualifying the IME for conflict of interest?
The decision of the hearing officer was affirmed. The court noted that under Code Me. R. § 90-351-004, § 2(6)(C), a hearing officer had the authority to disqualify an IME for general contacts with insurers, employers, and labor groups, if such contacts were not disclosed and came to light during the hearing. In the instant case, the hearing officer found that the grounds for disqualification were not known until the time of the IME's deposition. Implicit in the hearing officer's finding was a determination that the IME violated § 2(6)(C) by failing to disclose his conflict of interest in a timely manner. Thus, the state's highest court could not conclude that the hearing officer's finding of a conflict of interest on these previously undisclosed facts was clearly erroneous.