A note from an LPN that fails to mention causation in relation to the applicant’s current condition is not sufficient evidence to support a reopening

In Hothan, Applicant worked as a guard at the Mohave County Jail. In 2009, Applicant was injured when an inmate slipped out of his shacks and used the shackles to beat applicant in the face and neck. Applicant sustained a mild head injury, broken noise, and contusions. Applicant did not miss any time for work and had no permanent disability. This claim was accepted and later closed. In 2014, Applicant was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. In 2016, Applicant was diagnosed with PTSD. In September 2018, Applicant filed a petition to reopen. The petition was denied and the case proceeded to hearing, where Applicant testified that medical providers told her the colitis and PTSD were related to the assault in 2009. Evidence submitted included an email from a licensed practical nurse (“LPN”) to the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) addressing causation. The note stated. “While I am not a doctor, I have dealt with patients over the years who have been diagnosed with both PTSD and ulcerative colitis, there is definitely a link between the two.”

The ALJ determined that Applicant failed to meet the burden of proving a new, additional, or previously undiscovered condition because she had not provided sufficient medical evidence linking either the PTSD or colitis to the 2009 assault. Applicant appealed and argued that the ALJ did not consider all of her evidence, including the LPN note. The Arizona Court of Appeals (the Court) affirmed the ALJ’s decision.

The Court found that the record did not show the ALJ considered the LPN note because the LPN note did mention a link between the colitis and the injury. But the Court stated that even assuming an LPN had sufficient medical expertise to opine on causation, the note did not state whether the LPN had reviewed record or examined the applicant. The note also did not state that the 2009 assault caused the applicant’s current condition. The Court concluded that while the ALJ erred by saying the records did not mention a link, the LPN’s note was not sufficient to establish a link by reliable medical evidence.

The Court held that the LPN note was not sufficient evidence for Applicant to prove her case and affirmed the ALJ’s award.

Hothan v. Indus. Comm’n of Ariz., 2020 WL 4717907 (Aug. 13, 2020).

October 2020 Newsletter