Elizabeth Syer and Brian Carter Obtained Favorable Workers' Compensation Ruling on Behalf of Employer
Elizabeth Syer and Brian Carter recently obtained a favorable ruling on behalf of the employer in a workers' compensation claim in which the claimant failed to prove that his injury was an aggravation of a pre-existing condition but rather a lumbar strain from which he had fully recovered.
In 2007, the claimant, a 24 year-old male, filed a Claim Petition and Penalty Petition against his employer, a company that supplies human blood and blood components, contending that in March of 2006 while loading and unloading heavy units of blood plasma, he developed back pain and that his employer failed to act timely on his claim. The Penalty Petition was amicably resolved while the Claim Petition was litigated to conclusion.
The claimant, upon reporting the accident to his employer, was transported to a local emergency room. He subsequently saw one of the employer's panel physicians who prescribed a course of physical therapy; upon completion of the program, he was returned to work in June of 2006. At that time, he complained that he was unable to do the prolonged standing required of his job.
At the hearing in March of 2008, the claimant conceded that he suffered symptoms in his back prior to the work injury but they were not severe. In support of claimant's petition, John Kline, M.D. (physiatrist) opined that the claimant suffered an aggravation of the pre-existing congenital condition, spondylolisthesis, during his work accident. Dr. Kline first examined the claimant in January of 2008 after he had undergone surgery for the spondylolisthesis and had been involved in a subsequent automobile accident. Dr. Kline released the claimant to return to light, moderate duty at that time.
At the request of his employer, claimant was examined by Michael Dawson, M.D., an orthopedist, four months after the accident and upon completion of a course of physical therapy. Dr. Dawson opined that the claimant was recovered from the lumbar strain suffered in March of 2006. Examining the claimant for a second time in October of 2007, Dr. Dawson opined that the surgery for L5-S1 spondylolithesis had nothing to do with the lumbar strain suffered in March 2006.
The judge, in granting the claim petition, found that the claimant suffered a work-related lumbar strain from which he had fully recovered by July 2006. Furthermore, the judge terminated workers' compensation benefits as of July 2006, finding no aggravation of the claimant's pre-existing congenital condition. In rendering his decision, the judge relied upon the orthopedist's opinions as more logical and credible than the physiatrist's, based upon the claimant's history, the orthopedist's physical examination of the claimant and his training and knowledge of the spine.