Conflicting Testimony of Two Doctors In a Workers Compensation Case

In Daniels v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (TriState Transport), 753 A.2d 293 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2000), the supreme court considered the Workers' Compensation Judge's (WCJ) grant of a termination petition in a case involving disputed expert medical testimony. The Workers' Compensation Judge (WCJ), after summarizing the conflicting testimony of the two doctors, simply stated that he found the employer's expert to be more credible and persuasive than the claimant's expert based upon a review of the evidentiary record as a whole. In considering whether this was sufficient to constitute a "reasoned" decision, the supreme court first held generally that "a decision is 'reasoned' for purposes of Section 422(a) if it allows for adequate review by the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB) without further elucidation and if it allows for adequate review by the appellate courts under applicable review standards." Id. at 76, 828 A.2d at 1052. Then, turning to the specific question at issue, i.e., whether the WCJ had adequately explained the reasons for rejecting or discrediting competent evidence, the supreme court indicated that, when witnesses testify only by deposition, "resolution of the conflicting evidence cannot be supported by a mere announcement that [the WCJ] deemed one expert more 'credible and persuasive' than another." Id. at 78, 828 A.2d at 1053. The supreme court held that, in such cases, "some articulation of the actual objective basis for the credibility determination must be offered for the decision to be a 'reasoned' one which facilitates effective appellate review." Id.