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Ayisi v. Sequel Youth & Family Services, LLC

Court of Appeals of Oklahoma, Division IV

February 28, 2019

MARCELLA AYISI, Petitioner,
v.
SEQUEL YOUTH & FAMILY SERVICES, LLC, TRAVELERS INDEMNITY CO., and THE WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION, Respondents.

          Mandate Issued: 03/27/2019

          PROCEEDING TO REVIEW AN ORDER OF THE WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION HONORABLE MICHAEL T. EGAN, ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE

          Bob Burke, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Jeffrey M. Cooper, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Petitioner

          Mia C. Rops, AYIK & ASSOCIATES, St. Paul, Minnesota, for Respondents

          DEBORAH B. BARNES, PRESIDING JUDGE

         ¶1 This is the second appeal in this case. The first appeal -- Sequel Youth & Family Services LLC v. Ayisi, 2018 OK CIV APP 7, 412 P.3d 107 -- arose from an order of the Workers' Compensation Commission affirming the order of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who found Marcella Ayisi (Claimant) sustained compensable injuries to both of her knees arising out of the course and scope of her employment. As explained at greater length in the prior appeal, Claimant fell on August 26, 2015, while working as a residential counselor for Sequel Youth & Family Services, LLC. She "land[ed] directly on both knees." 2018 OK CIV APP 7, ¶ 2. The medical evidence generated after the accident revealed that the primary injury or condition in Claimant's knees is osteoarthritis.

         ¶2 As explained in the prior appeal, the pertinent statutory provisions are found in 85A O.S.Supp. 2014 § 2, and provide as follows:

9. a. "Compensable injury" means damage or harm to the physical structure of the body... caused solely as the result of either an accident, cumulative trauma or occupational disease arising out of the course and scope of employment....
....
b. "Compensable injury" does not include:
...
(5) any strain, degeneration, damage or harm to, or disease or condition of, the eye or musculoskeletal structure or other body part resulting from the natural results of aging, osteoarthritis, arthritis, or degenerative process including, but not limited to, degenerative joint disease, degenerative disc disease, degenerative spondylosis/spondylolisthesis and spinal stenosis, or
(6) any preexisting condition except when the treating physician clearly confirms an identifiable and significant aggravation incurred in the course and scope of employment.

         ¶3 Regarding the exclusion of conditions "resulting from the natural results of aging, osteoarthritis, arthritis, or degenerative process," set forth in § 2(9)(b)(5), we explained that under both the Workers' Compensation Code and the Workers' Compensation Act such conditions were also excluded except where "the employment is a major cause of the deterioration or degeneration and is supported by objective medical evidence[.]" Ayisi, ¶ 14 (citing 85 O.S.Supp. 2010 § 3 (13)(d); 85 O.S. 2011 § 308 (10)(c)). We explained, among other things, that "legislative silence is rarely to be taken as clear legislative intent to abrogate an established construction," Ayisi, ¶ 14, and we explained that an alternative construction requiring that such injuries, in effect, be "caused solely" by the employment in order to be compensable would "be untenable in light of the statute as a whole," id. ¶ 21. We concluded, in pertinent part, that Claimant's osteoarthritis -- which we explained was defined as a condition caused by the damage or breakdown of the protective joint cartilage between bones -- is therefore compensable under § 2(9)(b)(5) if her employment is found to be the major cause of her osteoarthritis. Ayisi, ΒΆ 14 n.2. We stated in the prior appeal that "it is the legislative intent that, in this case, Claimant's osteoarthritis, if resulting from the natural results of aging, is not compensable unless it is found that the employment is the major ...


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