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Aguirre v. Indus. Comm’n of Ariz. - 12/4/2018

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that Administrative Law Judge’s blanket adoption of insurer’s post-hearing memorandum fails to resolve evidentiary and legal issues regarding worker’s compensation claim and sets aside Industrial Commission Award for failure to make findings with sufficient specificity to permit appellate review.


A firefighter was diagnosed with leukemia and filed a workers’ compensation claim, which his carrier denied.  The firefighter obtained a hearing before the Industrial Commission of Arizona, at which he and the carrier provided contrary expert medical testimony regarding the reasonable relationship between his leukemia and his occupational exposure.  The parties filed post-hearing memoranda, and the Administrative Law Judge summarily stated that he was more persuaded by the carrier’s memorandum and the firefighter failed to carry his burden of proof.  The firefighter requested review, and the ALJ summarily affirmed the award.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals set aside the award as failing to appropriately specify the basis for the ultimate disposition of the firefighter’s claim.  First, the Court of Appeals rejected the carrier’s argument that the firefighter waived his challenge to the sufficiency of the award, which the firefighter preserved by a simple request for review.  The Court of Appeals held that the ALJ’s blanket adoption of the carrier’s post-hearing memorandum did not draw conclusions on legal issues so that the reviewing court could determine whether the evidence supported the award.  The Court of Appeals set aside the award because it could only speculate as to how the award resolved conflicting evidence, made ultimate factual findings or provided legal analysis of the major legal issues in the case.

Judge Brown authored the opinion; Judges Campbell and Orozco joined.

Posted by: William D. Furnish

Posted On: 1/4/2019