The employee alleged to have injured himself when he either fell off of a stool or his foot slipped off of a stool in February of 2017. His initial reports alleged only foot pain and that he hadn’t fallen to the ground. However, throughout fairly extensive medical treatment, his claims expanded to right foot, neck, low back, and right elbow pain and sometimes also bilateral leg numbness. He also reported to some doctors that he fell to the ground onto his back and foot or his head, back, and foot, depending which doctor’s report you read.
To complicate matters, the employee had a prior incident form 2007 involving an airport escalator which resulted in injuries to his neck, shoulders, arms, low back, and numbness in his anterior thighs. Following that injury, he was recommended for surgery including a multilevel cervical fusion.
Related to the 2017 work injury, the employee obtained an opinion from Dr. Sinicropi that a multilevel cervical fusion was necessary and related to the work injury. The employer and insurer obtained an IME from Dr. Friedland who found a contusion or sprain to the right ankle but denied all other injuries. At hearing, the compensation judge adopted Dr. Friedland’s opinion and denied any neck and low back injury and found that the right foot and ankle injury had resolved.
On appeal, the employee argued that the compensation judge erred by not adopting Dr. Sinicropi’s opinion as it was supported by adequate foundation. The W.C.C.A. confirmed a prior holding that a doctor who reviewed an IME which outlines medical history can be found to have adequate foundation on that basis, but in this case, the compensation judge never made a finding that Dr. Sinicropi lacked foundation – the mere choice to adopt another doctor’s opinion doesn’t equate to a finding of lack of foundation for the rejected opinion. Finally, the W.C.C.A. addressed the employee’s argument that Dr. Friedland’s opinion lacked foundation due to errors including a misinterpreted pain diagram, misinterpretation of an MRI, etc. by again confirming that assertions of “mistakes” in an IME opinion play into the weight given to that opinion, not its foundation. The W.C.C.A. opinion serves as a good reminder that “lack of foundation” isn’t always the best, or even the correct, argument to make when trying to discredit an opposing medical opinion.