Employee appeals from the compensation judges determination that the employee failed to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that he suffered from work-related post-traumatic stress disorder and failed to prove that he was entitled to the temporary partial disability and medical benefits claimed. Affirmed.
EE is a truck driver.
On August 12, 2016 EE suffered a work injury to his neck and L shoulder when a load he was wheeling down a ramp overturned.
On January 2, 2017 a car driving next to the truck being driven by EE began to fish tail and then struck EE’s truck causing EE to lose control and the truck to jack-knife and leave the highway and enter a ditch. The EE considered himself to have narrowly avoided death.
At work the next day, EE began experiencing neck and shoulder pain symptoms. When EE returned to driving tractor he noticed his driving behavior changed and he felt unsafe operating the truck.
On January 10, 2017 EE was examined by RN Anderson who diagnosed neck stain and PTSD. ER/IR denied primary liability for any mental health injury arising from the January 2, 2017 work injury. Later in January 2017 LP Hammargen examined EE and diagnosed him with acute stress disorder anticipating it to progress to PTSD when the symptoms persisted longer than a month.
On February 6, 2017 EE began working at a winery as a manager for less pay and performing no duties related to driving.
In May of 2017 LMFT, MA Rusk began treating EE and documented a number of psychological symptoms and diagnosed EE with PTSD.
On July 27, 2017 Psy.D, LP Voigt agreed with diagnosis of PTSD.
On October 12, 2017 PhD, LP Arbisi conducted an IPE and determined no PTSD based on EE not being exposed to threatened death due to lack of serious injury to EE or others related to the January 2, 2017 incident. The incident lacked significant magnitude according to Arbisi who also noted EE did not seem particularly upset or demonstrate physiological reactivity when describing the incident. Arbisi also noted EE was not receiving treatment for PTSD, denied symptoms, and did not have reactions to driving or tractor-trailers. Arbisi diagnosed EE with temporary adjustment disorder.
Lower Court’s Finding:
Judge found EE did not suffer from PTSD as a result of the work injury.
EE appeals from the finding of no PTSD. EE argues that: (1) the WC judge did not address the issue presented (whether EE has PTSD arising from a physical injury and instead focused on whether EE has PTSD arising from the Jan. incident); and decision is not supported by substantial evidence.
Issue was addressed b/c the issue to be decided was the nature and extent of the injury sustained on January 2, 2017 and specifically whether there was a mental injury. Both counsel agreed to the statement of the case. EE evidence at hearing went to a diagnosis of PTSD from the incident. No evidence presented that EE was suffering from any mental condition arising from any physical injury from the incident. Opinion of Arbisi expressly concluded no psychological injury from the incident. No error by judge.
PTSD criteria: employee bears the burden of proof.
Substantial evidence: a WC judge’s choice between conflicting medical expert opinions is generally upheld unless the facts assumed by the expert are not supported by the record. Nord v. City of Cook, 360 N.W.2d 337, 37 W.C.D. 364 (Minn. 1985). Record supports Arbisi – some PTSD criteria are lacking in EE’s symptomology, i.e. multiple negative alterations in cognition or mood, and marked alterations in arousal or reactivity.
Foundation: Arbisi reviewed EE’s medical record, conducted an in-person interview, administered tests, and evaluated test results. Arbisi accurately described mechanism of injury. This is adequate Gianotti v. Indep. Sch. Dist. 152, 889 N.W.2d 796, 802, 77 W.C.D. 117, 124 (Minn. 2017).
Record supports findings.