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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Donald Hill suffered an on-the-job back injury on July 26, 2002. Dr. Samuel Bierner issued a report certifying that Hill reached maximum medical improvement on Nov. 6, 2002, and assigned an impairment rating of 5 percent, noting that Hill had preexisting lumbar and cervical problems that were not affected by the July 26 accident. Hill challenged both the Nov. 6 certification date and the 5 percent rating. At a contested case hearing on June 16, 2003, the hearing officer heard testimony from Hill’s doctor saying he agreed with the certification date. The hearing officer listed the certification date as Nov. 2, 2002, and Hill’s impairment rating as 5 percent. Hill appealed to the next administrative level. The panel there reformed the hearing officer’s certification date from Nov. 2 to Nov. 6, but otherwise agreed with the hearing officer’s conclusions. Acting pro se, Hill then sued his employer’s workers’ compensation carrier, American Casualty Company of Reading, Penn., in trial court. Hill offered several exhibits into evidence. American offered Bierner’s answers to deposition questions. The trial court allowed Hill to reopen his case, where he presented a June 30, 2004, report prepared by Bierner that said Hill reached maximum medical improvement on that day; the report still gave Hill a 5 percent impairment rating. The trial court ruled that Hill reached maximum medical improvement on June 30, 2004, with a 5 percent impairment rating. The trial court also entered findings of facts and conclusions of law. HOLDING:Affirmed. The court first examines whether the evidence was legally sufficient to support the trial court’s ruling and whether the trial court should have granted American’s motion for a directed verdict. To do this, the court looks at Labor Code ��410.306(c) and 410.307(a), both of which American says bar evidence at trial about the date of maximum medical improvement that wasn’t previously entered at the contested-hearing stage. The court disagrees with American’s interpretation of these two statutes, finding instead that the statutes “clearly prevent the trial court from considering new evidence of extent of impairment, but they do not purport to prohibit new evidence of the date of maximum medical improvement.” The court adds that evidence about certification dates is treated differently under these statutes. The court refuses to review the propriety of the trial court’s admission of four of Hill’s exhibits, because American did not sufficiently brief the issues surrounding them. The court does review two of them, however, which American insists were improperly authenticated and were hearsay: 1. a letter from the Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission to Hill stating that the records in Hill’s file indicate that Bierner amended his original maximum improvement date; and 2. the records related to Bierner’s reevaluation of Hill. As for the exhibits’ authentication, “the trial court could conclude the distinctive characteristics and contents of the documents, taken in conjunction with the circumstances, were sufficient to prove the documents were genuine, and we conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion in overruling [American's] lack-of-authentication objections.” As for the exhibits being hearsay, American does not cite any authority to support its contention that Hill did not prove the predicate for the admission of the business records. OPINION:FitzGerald, J.

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