Arthur Cannon injured his left foot and heel while working as a police officer for the City of Sacramento. He was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis and provided with physical therapy, cortisone injections , and an orthotic device. His primary treating physician found him permanent and stationary in January 2010, with no impairme nt of his activities of daily living and capable of performing his usual occupation.
An agreed medical examiner, Dr. William Ramsey, agreed Cannon was permanent and stationary and that there was no impairment but recommended that he be precluded from such things as prolonged running. Dr. Ramsey explained in a supplemental report that at the time of his original report, he was “unable to offer any impairment from a strict interpretation of the AMA Guides, 5th Edition” because “other than some tenderness, no objective abnormalities were identifiable.” Now, however, Dr. Ramsey determined that it was acceptable to characterize Cannon’s residual condition “using a gait derangement abnormality” “by analogy, using Almaraz/Guzman-II as a basis.” Noting that Cannon’s problem was “relatively mild,” with “the left heel causing weightbearing problems” and the likelihood that the condition “would . . . be aggravated appreciably by running activity on other than a short-term basis,” Dr. Ramsey recommended characterizing Cannon by reference to “Table 17-5, page 529,” as having “a limp, despite the absence of any arthritic changes about adjacent joints, equivalent to 7% whole person impairment.”
Ramsey continued to explain in yet another subsequent report that because Cannon’s heel pain “interferes with weightbearing activities, particularly running,” he “thought that by analogy, it would be similar to an individual with a limp and arthritis, resulting in the 7% impairment recommended.” He conceded however that that “heel pain, or for that matter, other aspects of pain that do not have any accompanying objective measurement abnormalities, do not rate anything in the AMA Guides, whether or not these problems interfere with one’s activities.”
In a trial brief, the city argued that a rating by analogy under Almaraz/Guzman would be proper only if the case could be characterized as “complex or extraordinary,” which Cannon’s injury could not be. The workers’ compensation judge (judge) agreed, finding that Cannon had no permanent disability because his medical condition was not complex or extraordinary and therefore did not warrant departure from a strict application of the AMA Guides.
Cannon petitioned for reconsideration, arguing that a case does not have to be complex or extraordinary to be rated by analogy under Almaraz/Guzman. The board granted reconsideration and, agreeing with Cannon in a split panel decision, rescinded the judge’s findings and award and returned the matter to him for a new permanent disability rating based on Dr. Ramsey’s findings.
The Court of Appeal affirmed the award in the unpublished case of City of Sacramento v WCAB (Cannon).
The city argued that a rating by analogy under Almaraz/Guzman is permissible only in complex or extraordinary cases. The Court of Appeal disagreed. It concluded that “this is an unwarranted interpretation of the Sixth District’s decision in Milpitas Unified. What the Sixth District said was this: ‘The Guides . . . cannot rate syndromes that are ‘poorly understood and are manifested only by subjective symptoms.’ [Citation.] [¶] To accommodate those complex or extraordinary cases, the Guides calls for the physician’s exercise of clinical judgment to assess the impairment most accurately.’ (Milpitas Unified, supra, 187 Cal.App.4th at p. 823, italics added.) Thus, the Sixth District was using the term ‘complex or extraordinary cases’ to describe ‘syndromes that are ‘poorly understood and are manifested only by subjective symptoms,’ which the AMA Guides do not, and cannot, rate.”
“It is undisputed that Cannon’s condition — plantar fasciitis — is manifested only by his subjective experience of pain. Thus, his condition appears to fall right into the category of cases the Sixth District was describing in Milpitas Unified, where the AMA Guides ‘calls for the physician’s exercise of clinical judgment to assess the impairment most accurately.’ (Milpitas Unified, supra, 187 Cal.App.4th at p. 823.) Dr. Ramsey performed that assessment here and determined that Cannon’s plantar fasciitis resulted in a 7 percent whole person impairment equivalent to a limp with arthritis. The city has shown no error in that assessment and no error in the board’s decision based on that assessment.”