Fenske v. W. Steel Erection, Inc. et al.

Fenske v. W. Steel Erection, Inc. et al., No. WC17-6107 (W.C.C.A. Apr. 16, 2018).

This matter involves an admitted injury to the employee’s left tibia and fibula occurring on November 3, 2008. The parties entered into a full, final, and complete Stipulation for Settlement leaving open future medical treatment on the left ankle. Eventually, the employee underwent a subtalar amputation of his left leg on August 18, 2017. Medical experts for both the employer and insurer agreed that this treatment was reasonable, necessary, and causally related to the work injury. The Employee filed a Petition to Vacate the prior Award on Stipulation for Settlement based upon a substantial change in medical condition that was not anticipated by the parties.

The W.C.C.A. reviewed the Employee’s Petition to Vacate, applying the Fodness factors. Specifically, the Court analyzed the (1) change in diagnosis, (2) ability to work, (3) additional permanent partial disability, (4) additional medical care, and (5) the contemplation of the parties. The W.C.C.A. determined that all factors fell in favor of the Employee, justifying a vacation of the Award on Stipulation for Settlement.

In relation to the “contemplation of the parties” factor, the Court indicated that there is a distinction between reasonably foreseeable consequences and/or “true expectations and contemplations of the parties” citing Davis v. Trevilla of Golden Valley, WC09-165 (W.C.C.A. Jan. 21, 2010). In this case, the Court emphasized that the employee was working without restrictions and undergoing no medical treatment at the time of settlement, which eventually changed due to the amputation surgery. This procedure and resulting condition could lead to a substantial amount of additional benefits. The W.C.C.A. indicated that “no evidence presented by the employer and insurer” supported that these “outcomes were reasonably within the contemplation of the parties at the time of settlement.”

The W.C.C.A. did not analyze or reference Ryan v. Potlatch.