Friday, August 12, 2011

Safety penalty cases

No scaffolding violation
The Commission reversed a penalty for an alleged employer safety violation.  ALJ House noted "As is apparent from the testimony of both claimant and claimant's employer, claimant was working on scaffolding which broke when his employer attempted to walk on the same board occupied by claimant."  the Commission noted the employee set up the boards which were 4 feet off the ground, he was aware of the defect, and the employer had no reason to know of any safety defect.  The Commission awarded PTD against the Fund in the case.  Moseley v Elite Stucco, 2014 Mo WCLR Lexis 48 (April 10, 2014).  The Commission noted the absence of medical history did not preclude a finding of causation. 
ALJ  House
Atty: Pitts, Musick

No safety penalty for woman too big for her seat. 
A 50-year old health care provider was awarded permanent and total disability benefits when she was driving a patient in West Plains, MO in 2009 to buy a soda, she became distracted by the patient, and struck a car resulting in leg injuries which placed her permanently in a wheelchair.  Barton v Green Acres Home of West Plains and Newton Group Home, 2014 Mo WCLR Lexis 31 (March 7, 2014). 

The Commission rejected the employer's arguments that claimant violated a safety policy by not wearing a seat belt and that her benefits should be reduced up to 50%.  The Commission affirmed a finding by the ALJ that the employer failed in this affirmative defense by not showing that the lack of a seat belt caused the injuries in question.   The ALJ alternately found that the employer did not "adopt" a policy to require its workers to wear seat belts and that a policy for employees to "obey the laws" was insufficient to invoke the penalty.  Claimant asserts because she was 400 pounds that she was unable to use a standard seat belt and there was no attempt by the employer to provide her a larger one.  She asserts that her chronic obesity of 400-450 pounds was never an obstacle or hindrance to her employment. 

"The courts have recognized that there must be a causal connection between the violation of the employer's safety rule and the employee's injury. Davis v. Roadway Express, Inc., 764 S.W.2d 145 (Mo. App. S.D. 1989); and Swillum v. Empire Gas Transport, Inc., 698 S.W.2d 921 (Mo. App. S.D. 1985). The failure of an employee to obey a safety rule does not authorize the imposition of the penalty statute unless the injury is caused by the Employee's failure. Swillum v. Empire Gas Transport, Inc., supra. The statute itself dictates that the penalty shall apply only when the injury is caused by the employee's failure to obey the safety rule."

The ALJ further rejected the argument that claimant's accident did not arise from her employment and noted a heightened occupational risk because she drove more on the job and had a passenger at the time of the accident who required more attention. 

The employer did not contest the finding of PTD on appeal and limited its alleged error to the safety penalty issue.  Claimant was rendered temporarily disabled for 93 weeks and spent nearly a year in a nursing home after her accident because she was unable to take care of herself.  The ALJ did not award Medicaid write-offs  when there was no evidence that claimant remained personally liable on the balance.   

ALJ  Wilson
Atty:  Alberhasky, Moberg
Experts:  Koprivica, Swearingin

No safety penalty for sticking hand in machine
Claimant established that he was permanently and totally disabled when his dominant right hand became stuck in a gizzard machine resulting in degloving injuries, but the Commission affirmed a 25% reduction of benefits.  Gonzales v Butterball, 2014 Mo WCLR Lexis 29 (3-5-2014)

"There is evidence that the claimant attended safety training for this machine and should have been aware of employer's safety policy to call a supervisor if the gizzards were stuck rather than trying to correct   it on his own. There was also testimony by a coworker that most employees followed this protocol."

Claimant was a 66 year old immigrant who spoke limited English and had worked for the employer for several years included taking the guts, eggs, and hearts out of turkeys. Claimant also cut out the gizzard and other parts of the turkey.  His job was hand intensive and after the accident he had hypersensitivity and reduced dexterity which delegated the injured hand to a 'helper' hand.  The opinion provides extensive detail of the effort of more than an hour to extricate claimant's trapped hand in the evisceration department. 

Commission strikes safety penalty on narrow reading of safety manual
Claimant hurt his foot by having it sticking out of a forklift.  The safety manual required employees to keep their feet inside the forklift when traveling, but the employer failed to establish claimant was aware of a safety rule requiring him to keep arms hands and legs inside the forklift when it was not "traveling" in Greer v Sysco Food Service, 2014 Mo WCLR Lexis 41 (3-28-2014) and reversed a penalty by the administrative law judge.  The commission affirmed a finding that claimant was partially disabled, rejecting vocational opinion based on self-reported limitations of a need to lie down.  Affirmed  ED 101389 (Mo App. 2014)(Nov. 18, 2014).
ALJ  Kohner
Atty Margolis

Supreme Court leaves issue unresolved of what is "compensation" for penalty provision 
   When an employer was liable for a 15% safety penalty the penalty did not apply to additional compensation from the Second Injury Fund, according to the Missouri Supreme Court in Hornbeck v Spectra Painting Inc. No SC 92116 (Mo. July 31, 2012), affirming a decision from the court of appeals. Payment of such a penalty was inapplicable because it would penalize the employer for conditions it had no control and may deter employers from hiring workers with pre-existing disabilities.

         The court of appeals awarded $11,578.94 in penalties by enhancing the award based on compensation paid in the form of medical and indemnity benefits. The Supreme Court indicated there was "no reason for this court to explore" what was meant by "compensation" because the issue was not a matter in controversy. "Spectra’s counsel conceded at oral arguments that, if the penalty is owed, it should apply to the compensation monies that Spectra voluntarily paid to Hornbeck before the Commission’s decision." The employer initially disputed whether any penalty applied but abandoned this issue. Claimant had recovered in addition to benefits against the employer an award of 42.4 weeks of compensation from the second injury fund.
      In Hornbeck v Spectra Painting, ED 95680 (Mo. App 9-6-11) the court rejected the employer's argument that "compensation" subject to penalty did not include $32,801.15 in medical benefits already paid, $16,754.88 in TTD benefits paid, or a credit of $7000 against PPD in previously overpaid benefits. The court affirmed a Commission award of penalties under the Scaffolding Act relying upon 1919 precedent showing a fall is prima facie evidence of negligence in the absence of exculpatory showing on the part of the employer. The employer presented no such evidence. Claimant failed to persuade the Commission that he was permanently and totally disabled, that his subsequent biceps repair and back fusion flowed from the accident, or that the penalty should extend to SIF benefits without producing an incongruous result of punishing employers for pre-existing injuries. The decision puts to rest the argument whether medical benefits are compensation under the statute based on some equivocal statements in Thompson v ICI American Holding, WD 72374 (8-9-2011).

Strict findings required to invoke affirmative defense of safety penalty

The Commission on its third opinion on this case reversed its original imposition of a penalty against the employee and concluded that the employer failed to prove an affirmative defense that claimant violated a safety rule to support a 50% penalty.  The employer offered testimony that there was no doubt that carrying a 100 pound bag up a 40 foot ladder was the prevailing cause of the injury.  Claimant sustained a back injury, required surgery, developed CRPS, and was unable to return to his career as a roofer due to intractable pain.   The commission concluded that the employer failed because it did not show that violation of a three point contact rule was the cause of the injury simply by showing the injury occurred during the violation of the rule.     Carver v Delta Innovative, 2-14-13; 379 S.W.3d 869; 2013 Mo App. Lexis 129 (January 29, 2013) The award had applied the penalty to all "compensation" .  The Commission found it lacked jurisdiction to grant relief of a credit or reimbursement between carriers for benefits voluntarily made under Kansas law. DOLIR 7-22-11.
ALJ McKeon
Atty: Kelly, Russell, Jurcyk, Dickson
Experts: Koprivica, Cordray, Abram
Treater: Kaufman, Drisko

Claimant's right hand was pulled into a pulley, when the claimant tried to work on a broken belt, he did not fully de-energize the equipment and tried to stop a blower with a broom handle instead.  The Commission awarded benefits but allowed a 37 1/2% reduction against all benefits paid, allowing a credit for more than $25,000, about half of which was medical bills. The issue whether medical bills were compensation was not preserved on appeal.  The court of appeals found that claimant's failure to follow lock-out safety rules was an efficient cause of the accident and did not have to be the sole cause.  The court found the employer enforced the rule by training and monitoring employee compliance, and did not have show previous safety violations and consequent discipline.  Claimant had attended annual training for 12 years.  The court found a rational basis in the 2005 amendments to impose different penalties to employers and employees for noncompliance, noting that both parties were not similarly situated.   Thompson v ICI American Holding, WD 72374 (8-9-2011)

The employer disputed if claimant's accident arose out of and in course of employment when she was asked to drive about 45 minutes to help staff another convenience store in Hollister. Claimant lost control of her car resulting in multiple injuries including the need for a ORIF hip. She was temporarily disabled for about 7 months. She reported since the surgery she had severe posture problems that limited her ability to drive, sit in front of a computer but could attend church. A vocational expert felt she could perform some sedentary work such as an illustrator because she previously worked 25 years as a graphic artist. ALJ Mahon concluded it was a close case but found that claimant was unemployable because of her limits with her posture and questionable capacity to maintain the pace of the employment.

The ALJ awarded $45,865.83 in penalties against the employer for unreasonable defense. Harness v Southern Copyroll, 291 S.W.3d 299 (Mo. App. 2009) found travel compensable when work requires travel away from the primary business. The ALJ found the travel between stores was for the sole benefit of the employer, and dismissed the argument the claimant violated company policy not to clock out once she left the store. The employer offered no evidence to contest the duration of TTD or amounts of medical bills. The employer had no basis to deny the 50% hip disability found by its own expert. "It is unconscionable to starve out the Claimant by continuing to deny medical care and temporary total disability once compensability is clear and the injuries are severe. The Commission affirmed an award of $229,373.12, which included the penalties, and awarded future medical including vehicle modification and permanent total benefits for the 49 year old claimant. Robin Johnson v Jared Enterprises, DOLIR 8-10-11.
ALJ: Mahon
Atty: Goodnight, Wesley
Experts: Koprivica, Swearingin, Hendler, Cordray
treaters: Wester

A sleeping b-driver on a truck claims she could never work again after she fell out of her bunk in 2001 when the truck braked suddenly. Although claimant was initially diagnosed with only multiple contusions, she continued to report for years chronic discomfort of her entire body. One physician provided 14 separate diagnosis and another pain management physician placed her fentanyl and methadone for primarily neck, back and shoulder symptoms. At the time of the hearing of the 2001 case, claimant was 60 years old. ALJ Wilson concluded claimant established that she was only permanently partially disabled, that she "overstated" her symptoms and an unrelated depression might impact her symptoms. The experts disputed whether or not fibromyalgia contributed to her symptoms. Claimant had worked only a week. The employer did not prevail on a safety penalty that claimant should have worn a seat belt, because the team driver training claimant apparently told claimant not to wear restraints, contrary to company policy. McPherson v New Prime Inc., DOLIR 3-9-11.

ALJ: Wilson
Atty: Pitts Law Office
Experts: Lennard, Paul

Claimant, a minor, sustained substantial injuries in a car accident while allegedly intoxicated, when he was working out of state and driving to Wal-mart to obtain supplies the next day for his employer. ALJ Mahon denied the employer's defense for drug and safety rule violations, and found that the employer failed to adopt or enforce any drug-free work place policy.
Claimant sustained more than $225,000 in medical bills, resulting in a ruptured spleen, forearm, fracture, and brain injury. The claimant asserts that the employer did not enforce its drug-free work place policy, that claimant's supervisor was drinking, and allowed claimant to drink before driving on his errand. The claimant further asserted that the employer waived any subrogation rights under a 'unclean hands' doctrine.

The Commission affirmed the award, which denied the defense of drug and safety penalties and declined a constitutional challenge on the penalty provisions as moot. The ALJ noted that the employer failed to introduce evidence that claimant's intoxication was illegal in the state where the accident occurred or that claimant accepted a drug-free policy when he was hired as he signed documents in 2005 but did not resign policy documents when he was re-hired in 2006. The case is Merkenson v Tap Enterprises, 4-29-10.

Safety penalty applies to medical bills

Claimant crushed both arms while working under a truck and the Commission affirmed a finding that he violated a safety penalty not to use supports under the truck. Claimant, 58, underwent 7-9 surgeries and restored limited use of his arms and was unable to return to work in his former job as a mechanic, which he had worked for 25 years. Judge Mieners awarded permanent total with disfigurement and did not apply a safety penalty against medical bills. The Commission modified the award and found the 30% penalty applied to all benefits, including medical, which in this case represented over $168,000. Stillwell v Knapheide Truck Equipment Commercial, DOLIR 3-23-10.

Safety penalty against employee for crush injury

Judge Miner applied a 37 1/2% penalty for all benefits including medical, disability and disfigurement when claimant injured his right hand when it was pulled into a machine and had not complied with all safety rules to de-energize and tag the machine.

Claimant retired from the employer after working nearly 40 years following the accident.

Claimant received 55% of right hand. Judge Miner deemed the safety breaches were not "egregious" to assert the maximum 50% penalty, which the employer had initially applied to paid benefits. The case is Thompson v ICI Starch, 3-16-10.

Procedural requirements for drug test
A drug-free work place policy that had zero tolerance and required random drug tests did not thwart benefits of a 23-year old framer who just said no to taking a drug test after a catastrophic injury. The Commission reversed a denial of benefits, noting that the employer failed to comply with a procedural twist how an employer requests a drug test in Roscom v Woodstone Builders, DOLIR 1-12-10.

Hospital nurses informed claimant that the carrier wanted a drug test and advised the claimant that he might want to talk to an attorney about his rights. The administrative law judge denied benefits, noting claimant had refused a drug test at the request of the employer and forfeited his right to benefits under 287.120.6. The commission reversed, noting there was no "request" nor evidence that the request was "of the employer" to invoke forfeiture of benefits under the compensation statute. The Commission further declined to adopt findings by the administrative law judge that the employer had a post-injury drug test policy.

The Commission issued a temporary award that the employer pay ongoing TTD benefits after July 2008, medical treatment including pain management and psychological treatment for claimant’s paraplegia, and deferred an award of past medical bills until the final award. The claimant asserts more than $150,000 in disputed unpaid bills.

Missouri law amended §287.120 in 2005 to increase penalties for drug or alcohol use in conjunction with an accident from 15 to 50% and allowed complete forfeiture when proscribed use is the proximate cause of the injury. Roscom highlights new procedural traps for employers wanting to assert the drug use defense when a post-accident testing is not expressly indicated, a claimant’s consent is sought only after the accident, and the employer never directly requests the test. Missouri reform in 2005 changed the interpretation of the statute from "liberal" to "strict" construction to help Missouri business. This decision is one of many recent cases that has weakened employer’s defenses under the rubric of strict construction.

Friday, August 5, 2011

PTD: Narcotics, secondary effects

Court reduces narcotics
The court of appeals affirmed a decision to reduce a pain management drug cocktail, but the decision came with a twist with a warning about attorney’s fees.

In Noel v ABB Combustion Engineering, ED 98446 (Mo. App. 11-13-2012) the injured worker obtained a final award for permanent and total disability with open medical for a physical and psychiatric disability after 3 back surgeries. The employer paid benefits for several years and then refused to pay for multiple medications based on the recommendation of its IME doctor that some of the drugs had anything to do with claimant’s original lifting injury. The injured worker asked the Commission to re-open her case to prevent a change in medication and sought attorney’s fees for an unreasonable defense. The Commission concluded that the injured worker failed to show all of the medications were necessary for her work-related injuries and did not reach the issue whether the change in treatment would endanger her life, health or recovery.

Section 287.140.1 provides the employer the right to designate a provider to provide care as reasonably may be required to cure and relieve from the effects of the injury. Section 287.140.2 provides the employer may lose this option if the choice endangers the life, health or recovery of the employee. Section 287.560 provides for costs for an unreasonable defense.

The court of appeals found the Commission erred in part of its finding on the first issue and failed to make a finding on the second issue and remanded to “determine the extent” of the employer’s liability for fees. The court found the Commission considered conflicting evidence and supported the IME opinion that several medications did not flow from the work injury. The Court found that the Commission improperly disallowed two other medications based on insufficient evidence.

The claimant’s expert indicated that using cheaper medications would unequivocally risk claimant’s health. The employer had previously tried to wean claimant from narcotics and was ordered by an administrative law judge to prevent the action. In the original 2007 award a different administrative law judge admonished the employer not to change physicians to try to save money and warned an adverse medical response by the claimant could support an award for costs. Noel v ABB Combustion, 2007 MO WCLR Lexis 14.

Ultimately, the court affirmed a denial of fees.  2013 MO App. Lexis 1187 (Oct. 15, 2013).

This case is important in several regards. The case demonstrates the employer may designate a medical provider in a future medical award. Such decisions, however, are subject to review and potential penalties. Claimant must establish a need for treatment flows from a work injury. The claimant does not have to show the treatment cures or relieves the injury. The employer has the burden why it cut off medications, and the absence of specific evidence on each medication fails in that burden and may result in a claim for an unreasonable defense.

It has been well established that the employer owes for medical expenses when it neglects or refuses to provide care that flows from a work injury.  The decision indicates the employer continues to have an obligation to provide care in the chronic pain patient even though treatment does not, as the statute requires, cure and relieve.  What remains unanswered is whether this intepretation is applies only in the context of the chronic pain patient or more broadly imposes liability for medical costs in all cases even when there is limited or no efficacy to proposed or prior care. 

Court limits scope of future medical for narcotics

Claimant sustained career-ending injuries from an auto accident arising from her duties as a nurse but failed to prove an award for past or future Percocet and Fentanyl from her personal physician when there was evidence for her to taper their use and her expert could not explain why claimant's pain could not be managed with other medications. The employer stipulated to open medical but disputed the use of these medications and the award for permanent total. The administrative law judge found claimant obtaining a master's degree after her accident not an indication of her employability because she completed studies at a slower pace and on-line. Meyer v Pyramid Construction, 2010 Mo WCLR Lexis 98.

ALJ: Tilley
Experts: Koprivica, Dreilin, Conway, Kane-Thale
Treaters: Gailbraith, Concannon, Gainor, Algen, Metzler
Attys: Collins, Huck

Claimant struck his head and states he developed dizzy spells, blurred vision and neck pain. He underwent extensive medical treatment on his own including multiple cervical steroid injections and use of narcotics from Dr. Padda, representing over $60,000 in disputed medical bills. Judge Kohner awarded 15% disability on the basis of grade I concussion and cervical strain, and noted Dr. Peeples' recommendation for only non-narcotic medication more credible due to his expertise. Claimant's expert attributed the need for some medications to his work injury and pre-existing cervical conditions. Claimant's medical history indicated that he reduced his use of cigarettes and alcohol and was 'down to 2 joints' per week. Hempel v Lincoln Couty Electric, 2010 MO WCLR Lexis 18.

The Commission in a 2-1 decision reversed a finding of liability against the second injury fund and found the employer liable for total disability as a result of the effects of medication which made her sleepy.   The Commission finds use of carbamazepine and hydrodone caused memory loss and fatigue which caused her to sleep during the day incompatible with gainful employment.  
Sartin v Manpower, 2015 Mo WCLR Lexis 49 (May 14, 2015) 

The ALJ had found the Fund liable for total disability benefits.  The employer had settled the case for 12 1/2% and would have been found liable for total disability benefits for the 51 year old claimant.

ALJ Fisher
Experts:  Mullins, Eldred

Claimant fell off a ladder and sustained thoracic fractures, among other injuries. Claimant, 43, contends he was unemployable and has not looked for work after his MMI determination in 2004. ALJ Carlisle found claimant's expert, a neurologist, lacked credibility that claimant was unemployable and severely depressed when all of the treating physicians indicated claimant could work. The employer retained a psychiatrist who concluded claimant over-stated or falsely stated some symptoms. ALJ Carlisle discounted claimant's testimony that he needed to lie down most of time, when such limitations were not documented in many of the treating records. ALJ Carlisle summarized video evidence of claimant operating a motorcycle, made inaccurate representations had been made on a job application, and claimant earned income from e-bay.
The employer was ordered to provide pain medication, but made a finding that use of Oxycontin was not reasonable based on Dr. Coyle's testimony that long term use will "ruin" him. The case is Ward v Ameren, 2009 MO WCLR Lexis 119.

Claimant failed to establish he was PTD due to narcotic use despite contentious testimony from a vocational expert on the impact of narcotics on claimant's capacity to compete in the open labor market.   "Claimant testified he was, in fact, on said narcotics. The cross-examination, which was contentious between Mr. Cordray and counsel, boarding on unprofessional in its' vulgarity, wherein Mr. Cordray was asked why he could not come to an opinion on the causal connection on the claimed mechanism of injury and the need for narcotics. Mr. Cordray remained adamant that he noted which narcotics the Claimant had been prescribed and how much he was taking and the effects which were the result of those narcotics, without attributing these to work-related injuries or preexisting or subsequent conditions." O'Connor v Construction Material Trucking, 2012 Mo WCLR Lexis 135 (July 3, 2012).  Additional evidentiary objections were over-ruled that expert testimony was not "signed and read".
ALJ  Siedlik (affirmed 2-0)
Experts:  Stuckmeyer, Cordray

Claimant was PTD with entitlement to open medical after jumping over a 6 inch cone, resulting in three back surgeries and  implantation of a spinal cord stimulator.  Claimant's expert testified that fentanyl use precluded claimant's employment:  "We're on a hundred micrograms every forty-eight hours. And she still has medications, Flexerill, Efexor that she uses as well. The doses, even with the activities that she has, is just--it's too high. I just think that she is not capable of working at all. I think that the -- if she tried to work even a couple of hours a day the doses would be off the charts and she would not be controlled even with the highest dose of Duragesic."  The employer provided about $250,000 in medical and lost time benefits and offered employment with accommodation but argued in its brief that claimant was "content" to collect disability and not work.  Pennewell v Hannibal Regional Hospital, 2012 Mo WCLR Lexis 117 (June 18, 2012). [Pennewell was appealed and is scheduled for oral argument on 1-15-2013, ED 98706]
ALJ:  Dierkes
Atty:  Morthland
Treaters:  Abernathie, Kennedy, Feinberg
Experts: Cantrell, Blaine 

Claimant was PTD after a roll-over truck accident that knocked his shoes off.  He  required conservative care and radio ablation  for herniated discs in his back and neck.  He reported he must lie down at times and that meds make him drowsy.  The ALJ noted that a herniated disc is a "serious injury". Medical mileage was denied when it was not documented.  Richardson v Ryan's Trucking, 2012 MO WCLR LEXIS 74. 
ALJ Allen
Atty: Lewis
Tx: Ofori
Experts: Poppa, Munneke, Koprivica, Titterington, Dreiling  

Claimant alleges the groggy effect of using tramadol daily precluded gainful employment.  The commission rejected his claim of PTD, in a 2-1 vote, although the dissent noted the deleterious effect of claimant's medications on claimant's capacity to work.  Claimant underwent 2 surgeries for a biceps injury after unloading timber from a truck and reported intractable pain that required him to take medications and daily naps.  Patten v Cedar Creek, 2011 Mo WCLR Lexis 258 (Dec. 19, 2011)
ALJ  Mahon
Atty:  Wesley, Wohlford, Colburn
Experts:  Bennoch, Cordray, Hedges, Woodward, Getter

A claimant alleges she was "constantly in a fog" due to lack of sleep and cannot drive due to pain in her back and knees and must lay down frequently. She alleges she hurt her knee in a self-defense class, and then subsequently developed chronic back and bilateral knee pain due to abnormal weight bearing. Arnold v Mo. Dept. of Correction, 2011 MoWCLR Lexis 201.

ALJ Tilley
Atty: Doug Van Camp, Gregg Johnson
Experts: Mace, Browning

A 49-year old nurse injured her back lifting a patient in 2002 and suffered chronic pain after three back surgeries, ultimately resulting in a 2-level 360 fusion and implantation of a morphine pump. Claimant's expert concluded medications impaired claimant's capacity to make any professional judgments. The Commission affirmed an award of permanent total with open medical, but reduced the compensation rate and concluded the ALJ could not award specific care based on a life care plan. The award for past medical included a staggering figure of $543,737.
ALJ Lane
Atty: Hennessey, Early
Experts Musich, England
Treaters: Coyle, Sheehan, Kennedy

A Dangerous Building Inspector was found  unable to work as a result of a 2002 accident when his right foot became stuck in a hole, based on a 88-page opinion affirmed by the Commission.  Pace v. St. Joseph,
2011 MO WCLR Lexis 166. Claimant, 59,  developed a  cascade of problems following a knee surgery for a torn meniscus: DVT, RSD, and reactive depression.  His wife testified he is no longer a happy man and cannot play golf or scuba dive.   As a result of instability, he describes several subsequent falls at work until he was fired in 2005.  He states his leg continues to "kill" him and his world moves "in slow motion."  The administrative law judge found claimant required "massive" amount of narcotics. Claimant states he subsequently fell and injured his shoulder and developed carpal tunnel from using crutches.  The employer relied upon an expert who agreed claimant was unemployable, but attempted to apportion the condition in part to pre-existing conditions.  A bone scan  did not corroborate findings of complex regional pain syndrome and some of the doctors disputed the diagnosis and basis for claimant's complaints of chronic burning pain.
ALJ  Miner
Atty:  Creedy, Shine, Eisfelder
Experts:  Abrams, Titterington, Koprivica

Claimant received PTD benefits flowing from a 1999 incident as a result of trying to move a 350 pound pump, resulting in treatment for chronic back pain, piriformis syndrome and depression. ALJ Meiner found claimant's symptoms credible that he could never return to work including his complaints of frequent pain, falling down, and heavy narcotic use of medication. Claimant consulted a doctor before the accident for radiculitis, and did not identify a work-history during two initial medical visits, but a company nurse and co-worker were aware of the accident. The employer had been ordered to provide treatment previously in a temporary award. It is not clear why the case took more than 10 years to proceed to a final hearing. The case is Gibbons v The Quaker Oats Co., 2010 MO Lexis WCLR 57.
Attorneys; Knepper, Johnson
Experts: Koprivica, Crislip, Abram, Schmidt, Titterington, Poppa, Montaya, Quintero
ALJ: Meiners - PTD

In Kuhnlein v City of Kansas City, 2010 MO WCLR Lexis 96, the adminstrative law judge found, in a second injury fund claim of PTD benefits, vocational testimony unpersuasive that claimant was permanently and totally disabled based on claimant's use of narcotic medication, when the use pre-dated the primary low back strain. The judge also found unpersuasive that claimant didn't introduce evidence of vocational test results becuase of his dependence on narcotics.

ALJ: Mueller
Expets: Titterton, Walker

Claimant preivously used narcotics "to work" supported claim for permanent and total disability benefits for claimant sawyer with chronic shoulder and back pain. Vermillion v The Layman Co., 2011 MO WCLR LEXIS 228 (11-10-11)
ALJ Holden
Atty: Wise

Experts: England, Eldred

Claimant did not establish that she was permanently and totally disabled due to chronic pain that required daily Fentanyl doses, although her expert testified that drug side effects and pain complaints precluded her capacity to work. The administrative law judge noted that claimant's reported "need to lie down" was not corroborated by medical recommendation or restriction. Claimant was a 63-year old card dealer injured in 3 accidents in 2002-2003 including a repetitive trauma claim to her shoulder from dealing cards and a back accident from falling at work. She ultimately underwent shoulder surgery for "calcium buildup" and percutaneous discectomy for markedly degenerative thoracic discs, with no prior history. The employer had advanced $20,000 for the 8 year old case. The Commission affirmed 2-1 in Carter v Harrah's North Kansas City,  2011 MO WCLR Lexis 5.
ALJ Miner
Atty: Manson, Fox, Fleet
Experts: Stuckmeyer, Condray, Clymer, Thomas

Claimant lost a permanent total claim against the second injury fund, due to lack of credibility that he needed to lie down during the day and that he had disabling anger management issues. Claimant settled with the employer and received a partial disability award against the second injury fund for prior psychiatric, hand and knee conditions.

The administrative law judge compared the impact of claimant's pre-existing conditions on his ability to compete for and maintain employment. Claimant sustained employment as an iron worker for 35 years prior to his accident. He pursued only minimal conservative treatment for his bulging disc , and he settled his claim against the employer for back and psychiatric disability for a "mere" 15%. Claimant's psychiatrist expert rated 40% pre-existing disability and included factors such as a prior "chaotic family" and personality disorder. A witness confirmed that police had been called at work because of claimant's anger management issues.

The administrative law judge considered claimant's prospects of future employment. Although the PTD statute considers "any" employment, claimant stated he would not consider jobs that did not pay an appropriate salary. The administrative law judge further concluded that more effective recent psychotropic drugs made "it is reasonable to believe Claimant’s chances of securing and maintaining employment in the future will improve."
Roberson v Ben Hur Construction, 2010 MO WCLR Lexis 117.
ALJ Landolt
Experts: Volarich, Stillings, Gonzalez
Atty: Sievers, Barnard

A 38-year old failed to convince the Commission that she was PPD and not PTD due to prior conditions which included substance abuse.   The claimant argued the effect of narcotics impaired her capacity to concentrate and work with others and hindered her ability to return to a former job as an emergency dispatcher.    Watson-Spargo v Treasurer of the State of Mo., 370 S.W.3d 292 (Mo. App. 2012).  The dissent indicated no deference was required when the Commission based its opinions on flawed reasoning, and that the vocational expert relied upon in the decision never expressly made the finding that an employer would be reasonably expected to hire claimant.
Experts: Koprivica, Franks, Swearingin

A 56-year old claimant receives permanent and total disability benefits because she states she can't sleep, can't stand, and has to take narcotics every day as a result of an injury to her ankle when she fell on a shoe string while working as a housekeeper.  The treating surgeon felt she required a cane following repair of her achilles' tendon repair and restricted climbing, prolonged standing, lifting, and carrying. Her employer wouldn't take her back to work with a cane and she went on social security disability. A vocational expert concluded she was unable to work due to a combination of her ankle injury and pre-existing conditions and that her restrictions limited her to less than full sedentary work. "Claimant's daily use of narcotic pain medications, sleep disturbances, and the need to recline are evidence that she is permanently and totally disabled as a result of the last injury alone." The ALJ limited future medical to physical therapy and ankle braces alone and declined open medical for narcotics. "[R]ecords indicate that the claimant was already on narcotic pain medication prior to the work injury" but "claimant was able to work in a Heavy physical demand level job without restriction prior to the injury of July 2, 2008. Mr. Eldred was unable to indicate any job duties claimant was unable to perform prior to July 2, 2008 based on her pre-existing conditions." Claimant states her left ankle swells unless she elevates it. The award indicates she is over 300 pounds and had just returned to work for the employer part-time following surgery to the left knee. Thompson v Frene Valley Healthcare, 2012 Mo. WCLR Lexis 134 (July 2, 2012).
ALJ Dierkes (2-0 affirmed)
Atty: Barnes
Experts: Eldred, Carr
Treater: Trevino