Jech Dehn v. Star Tribune

Jech Dehn v. Star Tribune, No. WC 14-5591 (June 17, 2014).

The employee’s petition to vacate award on stipulation was granted by the WCCA, based on a substantial change in the employee’s medical condition.

The employee sustained an admitted injury to her left hand and wrist while working for the employer on June 9, 1995. The employee was diagnosed with a triangular fibrocartilage complex or TFCC tear. She later underwent multiple surgeries and later developed consequential right carpal tunnel syndrome.

The parties executed a stipulation for settlement on May 20, 1998. The employee settled her claim on a full final and complete basis, leaving open medical expenses for a lump sum payment of $15,000.00.

Subsequent to the stipulation, the employee had a number of accidents and injuries complicating her condition. The employee under went almost one surgery a year from 1998 until 2010. The most significant surgery was a left wrist fusion done in 1999.

The employee’s treating physician opined that the employee had a substantial change in her left wrist condition. A vocational evaluation was done at the request of the employee, finding that she was permanently totally disabled and that her 1995 injury was a substantial contributing cause.

Under Minn. Stat. Sec. 176.461(4), a substantial change in the employee’s medical condition can be established by a number of factors including, but not limited to a change in diagnosis, work ability, permanent partial disability, or additional medical treatment. The WCCA found that all of these elements applied.

The employer and insurer’s contention that the employee’s numerous subsequent and unrelated accidents were the cause of the employee’s disability was dismissed for lack of medical support. Interestingly, the WCCA finished by citing the “relatively small amount of compensation, $15,000.00” the stipulation provided. The Award on Stipulation was vacated.