Sloan v. N.D. Workforce Safety & Insurance

Claimant Claud Sloan appealed a district court judgment that affirmed a Workforce Safety & Insurance (WSI) order awarding him additional permanent impairment benefits. 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, based on his combined whole body impairment of 38 percent for his cervical spine, depression, dysphagia, and chronic pain. Sloan requested a rehearing. At a November 2009, hearing before an administrative law judge, 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. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded WSI's promulgation of administrative rules for assessing pain impairment did not conflict with its statutory authority and was not arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable.