Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Nurse awarded disability for helping difficult child birth

A nurse  held a patient's head for a long time during a difficult child birth and as a result she developed permanent disability in her back.  The Commission agreed, affirming an award of nearly $168,000.  Beatrice v Univ. of Mo., 2013 Mo WCLR Lexis 134 (Aug 2, 2013).

The employer disputed the need for surgery based on normal studies.  Claimant reported pain and underwent a two level anterior fusion although multiple  pre-operative studies showed no evidence of neural compression or disc pathology.  Claimant reported the surgery did little to improve her intractable back pain.   The ALJ noted that claimant reported  improved symptoms with incontinence even though the procedure had incomplete resolution of her back pain and she still required narcotics.

Dr. Highland concluded the claimant had  positive pre-operative discogram  and dismissed a prior "normal" discogram because the prior study did not use  contrast dye.   The employer raised concerns about psychiatric sources of claimant's pain but claimant refused to attend a psychiatric IME. any psychiatric conditions.

The  ALJ in a prior temporary award ordered the employer to provide a discogram to evaluate claimant's condition and treatment.  He  found the employer was not liable for fees because it had reasonable grounds to dispute its liability.  The level of PPD awarded was based on claimant's own expert.  

On appeal, the court of appeals affirmed the award.  Beatrice v Curators of the University of Missouri, 2014 MO App. Lexis 839 (Aug 5, 2014) and indicated  in a case of conflicting medical opinions the Commission was within its discretion to accept the opinion of a surgeon who performed a disputed two level anterior fusion compared to 5 other experts and disregard the employer's argument that the claimant  "was able to fake her bladder symptoms because of her knowledge as a nurse and her prior employment at a law firm and the Litigation Management firm."

ALJ Dierkes
Atty:  Rotts, Cline, Montgomery
Experts:  Highland, Coyle