Abstract

The North Dakota Supreme Court has ruled that the “most current” and “most recent” edition of the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides) is the Third Edition (McCabe v North Dakota Workers’ Compensation Bureau). This counterintuitive holding involved a claimant who injured his back and neck at work and who reached maximum medical improvement in 1994. At issue was which edition of the AMA Guides to use to measure the claimant's permanent partial impairment (PPI). Specifically, the question was whether to evaluate the impairment according to the Range of Motion (ROM) Model from the Third Edition or the Diagnosis-related estimates (DRE) of the Fourth Edition. The relevant statutory language required use of the “most current” or “most recent” edition of the AMA Guides. The court held that the language must be construed to mean the most recent edition at the time of the statute's enactment. At the time of enactment, the AMA Guides, Fourth Edition, (with the DRE Model) had not been published. The court held that the claimant's impairment must be evaluated using the ROM Model. The interpretation of the North Dakota Supreme Court is not consistent with the philosophy of the AMA Guides, and legal interpretations regarding use of the AMA Guides are not always consistent with specific directions therein.

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