Adam Strege v. Commercial Drywall, et. al

Adam Strege v. Commercial Drywall, et. al, No. WC23-6507 (W.C.C.A. November 15, 2023)

The Employee in this matter worked as a carpenter hanging sheet rock.  On March 18, 2004 during a dispute over framing done on a jobsite, a co-worker pushed the employee causing him to fall backwards and strike his head and left shoulder against a wall.  The employee claimed injuries to his neck, left arm as well as a traumatic brain injury causing a consequential emotional injury.   At a hearing before a compensation judge in September of 2006 the judge determined the employee suffered only a temporary strain to his neck that healed by July 15, 2004, and that the employee did not sustain a traumatic brain injury or emotional injuries. 

On June 12, 2012 acting pro se, the employee filed an Amended Claim Petition requesting a formal hearing for benefits related to the traumatic brain and neck injuries.  This Claim Petition was dismissed based on lack of jurisdiction to reconsider the 2006 award.  The Employee did not appeal. 

On June 2, 2022, the pro se employee filed a petition to vacate the 2006 Findings and Order.   The Employee made multiple arguments, but the information did not factually corroborate with the petition to vacate, so on October 27, 2022 the court dismissed without prejudice the employee’s petition to vacate.  That dismissal was appealed by the employee to the Minnesota Supreme Court.  On January 30, 2023, the Supreme Court dismissed the employee’s appeal for failure to timely file the Petition for Writ of Certiorari. 

On March 2, 2023, the employee filed another petition to vacate due to substantial change in medical condition that could not be anticipated, or in the alternative that he was incompetent to represent himself due to a traumatic brain injury.  No medical, psychiatric, or psychological assessments or reports were submitted by the employee in support of this petition. 

The employer and insurer sent the employee to an IME with Dr. Gurule.  As a part of the examination, Dr. Gurule reviewed evaluations of the employee from Loring Family Clinic which concluded the employee had a host of symptoms best summarized by neurological disorders otherwise not specified, anger issues, and diagnosed him with bipolar, intermittent explosive disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, and psychotic disorder not otherwise specified.  Dr. Gurule further noted that the employee showed no sign of neurological impairment or disability related to the work injury and diagnosed him with a psychotic disorder that was not caused or related to the work injury. 

The court looked at each of the Fodness factors with respect to the employee’s claim.  Regarding the ability to work, the court noted at the time of the award the employee had been released to work without restrictions.  Since then the employee’s been assessed as totally disabled and entitled to SSDI, but he has not provided information regarding the source of that disability or any connection to the March 18, 2004 work injury.  Therefore, they found no evidence supporting this factor. 

With respect to permanent partial disability, they found there was no evidence of increased PPD in the record.  With respect to more costly medical care, no evidence had been provided to suggest the employee underwent any significant medical care since 2006.  The employee submitted evidence of an award of SSDI benefits, but information supporting that award was not provided.  Regarding causal relationship, the employee presented no medical evidence connecting his claimed traumatic brain injury and consequential emotional injury to the March 18, 2004 work injury.  The court noted in the 2006 Findings and Order the judge found the employee did not demonstrate he sustained a traumatic brain injury as a result of the work injury.  Therefore, the court found the employee did not show a substantial change in medical condition and the petition to vacate on that basis was denied.  They also addressed the employee’s contention that he was incompetent to represent himself at the time of hearing.  The court noted that prior decisions of the court continuously required an employee seeking to vacate award on grounds of incompetency provides sufficient corroborating evidence in support of the claim.  The employee submitted only his own allegations, and did not submit any diagnosis or treatment of mental health condition by any medical professional, psychiatrist, or psychologist.  They further found no lay evidence other than the employee’s own allegations to support the claim of mental incompetence or incapacity and denied the claim.