Appeal from the District Court of Mercer County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable Gail H. Hagerty, Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Maring, Justice.
N.D. Supreme CourtSloan v. N.D. Workforce Safety & Insurance,
This opinion is subject to petition for rehearing. [Go to Documents]
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Opinion of the Court by Maring, Justice.
[¶1] Claud Sloan appeals from a district court judgment affirming a Workforce Safety & Insurance ("WSI") order awarding him additional permanent impairment benefits. We affirm, concluding WSI's promulgation of administrative rules for assessing pain impairment does not conflict with its statutory authority and was not arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable.
[¶2] In December 1985, Sloan sustained a compensable work-related injury while employed at a coal gasification plant in Beulah, North Dakota. WSI awarded Sloan permanent impairment benefits for his injury and has issued several permanent partial impairment orders since his original injury. Effective April 1, 2009, WSI promulgated N.D. Admin. Code § 92-01-02-25(4) to address pain impairment ratings. Based on the newly adopted rule, WSI reviewed Sloan's pain rating and determined he had sustained an eight percent impairment for pain which, when combined with his prior impairment ratings, totaled a whole body impairment rating of 38 percent. On June 11, 2009, WSI issued an order awarding Sloan additional permanent impairment benefits, in the amount of $8,464.50, based on his combined whole body impairment of 38 percent for his cervical spine, depression, dysphagia, and chronic pain. Sloan requested a rehearing.
[¶3] At a November 2009, hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"), a staff attorney for WSI appeared as the only witness and testified regarding the WSI's promulgation of N.D. Admin. Code § 92-01-02-25. The ALJ subsequently issued an order affirming WSI's June 2009 order awarding Sloan additional permanent impairment benefits. Sloan appealed to the district court, which affirmed the order.
[¶4] Under the Administrative Agencies Practice Act, courts exercise limited review in appeals from decisions by an administrative agency. Johnson v. North Dakota Workforce Safety & Ins., 2010 ND 198, ¶ 10, 789 N.W.2d 565. On appeal from the district court, we review the administrative agency's decision in the same manner that the district court reviewed the agency's decision. N.D.C.C. § 28-32-49. Under N.D.C.C. § 28-32-46, a district court must affirm an administrative agency order unless:
1. The order is not in accordance with the law.
2. The order is in violation of the constitutional rights of the appellant.
3. The provisions of this chapter have not been complied with in the proceedings before the agency.
4. The rules or procedure of the agency have not afforded the appellant a fair hearing.
5. The findings of fact made by the agency are not supported by a preponderance of the evidence.
6. The conclusions of law and order of the agency are not supported by its findings of fact.
7. The findings of fact made by the agency do not sufficiently address the evidence presented to the agency by the appellant.
8. The conclusions of law and order of the agency do not sufficiently explain the agency's rationale for not adopting any contrary recommendations by a ...