Substantial Evidence Test – Take 2

Giron is a second opinion from the Colorado Court of Appeals (the Court) dealing with the issue of substantial evidence. In this case, a security guard alleged that she sustained injuries as a result of natural gas inhalation while at work. The claimant smelt gas and called the local fire department, who traced the smell to an unlit pilot light on the stove. The claimant was advised that it was safe to re-enter the building and resume her shift. One week after the incident, the claimant reported to her employer that she had symptoms of headaches, grogginess, and dizziness the night of the incident. Two weeks after the incident, claimant sought medical treatment and complained of nausea, vomiting, migraines, and shortness of breath.

An IME physician found that the claimant did not sustain a compensable injury from the natural gas exposure First, the IME physician opined that the claimant’s symptoms were inconsistent with exposure to natural gas and that the claimant would have experienced acute symptoms such as eye or sinus irritation very soon after an exposure to natural gas. Additionally, the claimant’s 15-20 minutes of natural gas exposure would not be long enough to cause toxic effects. The ALJ found the IME physician credible and determined that the claimant did not sustain an injury. The Industrial Claim Appeals Office (the Panel) found that there was substantial evidence to support the ALJ’s findings.

The Court, in upholding the ALJ and the Panel’s opinions, gave deference to the IME physician and noted that the claimant’s exposure to mild gas for 15-20 minutes from an unlit pilot light was not a toxic exposure with the potential to cause injury. The Court cited the well-known standard of substantial evidence stating that “[s]ubstantial evidence is that which is probative, credible, and competent, such that is warrants a reasonable belief in the existence of a particular fact without regard to contradictory testimony or inference.” (citing Nanez v. ICAO, 2018 COA 162, ¶ 34). The Court noted that they are bound by the ALJ’s factual determinations, if supported by substantial evidence, even if the evidence is conflicting.

Singh v. Indus. Claims Appeal Office, 21 CA 1813 (July 14, 2022)

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