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Elizondo v. Hood Machine, Inc.

Supreme Court of Nevada

November 7, 2013

Carlos R. ELIZONDO, Appellant,
v.
HOOD MACHINE, INC.; and Employers Insurance Company of Nevada, Respondents.

Page 480

Evan B. Beavers, Nevada Attorney for Injured Workers, and Mary Bartell, Deputy Attorney for Injured Workers, Carson City, for Appellant.

Beckett, Yott, McCarty & Spann, Chtd., and James A. McCarty, Reno, for Respondents.

BEFORE HARDESTY, PARRAGUIRRE and CHERRY, JJ.

OPINION

HARDESTY, J.:

In this appeal, we are asked to determine whether the appeals officer's conclusory order in a workers' compensation matter failed to meet the statutory requirements of NRS 233B.125, and whether the doctrines of claim and issue preclusion apply to require dismissal of Carlos Elizondo's fourth request to reopen an industrial injury claim under NRS 616C.390. We conclude that the appeals officer's order was procedurally deficient and that the appeals officer erred by applying the doctrines of issue and claim preclusion to bar Elizondo's request to reopen his claim. Therefore, we reverse and remand.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

While employed by respondent Hood Machine, appellant Carlos Elizondo sustained an abdominal injury in 2000 and filed an industrial injury claim. Hood Machine's insurer, respondent Employers Insurance Company of Nevada (EICON), accepted the claim at least partly based upon a CT scan that indicated a potential left inguinal hernia.[1] The record is not entirely clear as to what then transpired, but it appears that after evaluation and treatment, no evidence of a hernia

Page 481

was found. In 2001, Dr. Susan Ramos concluded that Elizondo was stable and ratable. Thereafter, the physician who conducted Elizondo's permanent partial disability (PPD) examination gave him a zero-percent disability rating, and EICON closed his claim later that same year.

Prior requests to reopen claim

On three prior occasions, Elizondo requested that his claim be reopened, all of which requests were denied. In 2002, his request to reopen was based upon opinions from physicians, including Dr. Ramos, that he should have further testing because of the continued abdominal pain he was experiencing. After that claim was denied, he again sought to reopen the claim in 2004, this time using the report of a different doctor, which stated that he did in fact have a left inguinal hernia. However, this doctor could not state whether the hernia was related to the injury suffered in 2000, and the claim was again denied.

In 2007, Elizondo again sought to reopen his claim. This time he presented a new opinion from Dr. Ramos where she stated that the small hernia originally was not easily found but was now easily identifiable. Dr. Ramos provided her belief that the hernia related back to the original injury in 2000. The claim was again denied, and Elizondo petitioned the district court for judicial review of the denial. In denying Elizondo's petition, the district court reasoned that Elizondo had " failed to produce any evidence that the primary cause of the change of circumstances [was] the injury for which the claim was originally made," and that " no doctor has stated that the hernia is a result of the injury that occurred in 2000," and thus, substantial evidence supported the appeals officer's determination.

Elizondo appealed the district court's order, and this court affirmed the denial of judicial review, explaining, similarly to the district court, that " none of the medical reports that were properly before the appeal[ ]s officer concluded that [Elizondo]'s original injury in 2000 was the primary cause ...


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