Palmer v South Metro Fire District
2016 Mo WCLR Lexis 77
Dec. 2, 2016
The Commission affirms an award of total disability and open medical to a firefighter who fell on his knee in August 2011 in Jackson County, Missouri. The ALJ found as a result of "altered gait" claimant also sustained injuries to the opposite knee and back.
"Employee developed compensatory aggravation and acceleration of the degenerative process of the right knee with increased disability of the right knee. Dr. Koprivica opined that Employee's low back pain was a natural and direct complication of the August 19, 2011 left knee injury."
Claimant was initially treated for a contusion and ultimately underwent MRI imaging that identified advanced degenerative changes and lateral and meniscus tears. Claimant had an arthroscopy for the left knee and then proceeded with a TKR when his conditions did not adequately improve. He was unable to return to his job as a result of permanent restrictions and he described poor tolerance to physical activities due to "abnormal weight bearing." The claimant testified the condition to his right knee and back became worse since the accident and that claimant had made a complete recovery from his prior right knee surgery that had involved meniscus repair and ACL reconstruction.
The ALJ concludes the surgeon diagnosed Employee "with the following that he finds is the result of the direct impact injury of the left knee: Left knee medial meniscus tear, left knee anterior lateral meniscus tear, advanced grade 4 degenerative arthritis of the medial joint line, grade 4 trochlear lesion with grade 2 patellar articular lesion, and a large inferior patellar spur." (emphasis added)
The claimant offered two different experts Dr. Koprivica found if the claimant was vocationally disabled then he was disabled as a result of a Fund "total" as a result of the prior surgery. The other expert, Dr. Stuckmeyer, found him a total from the last accident alone. The ALJ concludes both vocational experts concluded that vocational restrictions involving sit/stand made claimant unable to work and "his age" made it unlikely he could return to the open labor market. The ALJ relied upon medical restrictions that Dr. Koprivica attributed to the last accident alone to conclude he was totally disabled from the last accident alone.
"I also find that Employee is unemployable in the open labor market as a result of the last accident based on Dr. Stuckmeyer and the overall dialogue of both vocational experts' opinions."
"....it was not realistic based on those restrictions and his age that he could return to college or the open labor market. "
The Commission affirmed the award for total disability and open medical for the "effects" of that injury.
Claimant was 59-years old at the time of the hearing and had worked 19 years for the fire department.