Medical records did not have to document a work injury to obtain disability benefits, according to the Missouri Court of Appeals in the case Daly v Powell Distributing, WD 71575, 71576 (Mo. App. 9-28-10).
The court of appeals remanded claimant’s two cases to re-address whether claimant was owed permanent and total disability from the employer or second injury fund and whether to award medical expenses. Claimant began work in 1995, worked about 5 years, delivered 300-400 soda cases a day and required low back surgery in 2000. Dr. Trecha, his back surgeon, released claimant in 2001 with 30 pound restrictions. The employer was ordered to pay benefits on the low back case in a temporary award. The employer disputed that claimant’s subsequent neck pain, tremors, 2003 cervical fusion, and his hernia flowed from his repetitive job activities and manifested themselves as a natural and probable consequence of work hardening. Medical records identified an onset after claimant ended his employment and did not document a clear work-related etiology.
Although the Division ordered the employer to provide benefits for the back, ALJ Herschel denied benefits for the neck and abdomen, a decision affirmed unanimously by the commission. The commission noted medical records did not show the “slightest connection” between work and claimant’s neck and abdomen conditions and found claimant’s expert not credible because he relied upon a “leap of faith” to prove causation.
The court of appeals remanded the case and found an award for disability could be based solely on testimony from Dr. Cohen, claimant’s examining expert, and did not require corroboration in the medical records. Dr. Cohen found causation based on claimant’s job duties or accident during work hardening. The employer’s expert, Dr. Heim, disputed causation based on remoteness of symptoms, but the court found his assumptions when the neck symptoms began was erroneous. The court found causation uncontroverted of the neck condition because the employer’s expert conceded job duties “could cause a change” in claimant’s degenerative neck” depending on how often and how long the activity occurred.
Claimant, 54, alleges he was unemployable, although he worked part-time in a bank. A vocational expert indicated claimant was not permanently and totally disabled as a result of his back surgery, but did not fully consider the impact of claimant’s neck fusion and hernia.
Source: Martin Klug, Huck, Howe & Tobin. Read Martin Klug’s Mo. Workers’ Comp Alerts