Lehto v. Community Mem’l Hosp. and Arrowpoint Capital Group

Lehto v. Community Mem’l Hosp. and Arrowpoint Capital Group, No. WC13-5629 (January 28, 2014)

The WCCA affirmed a compensation judge’s decision that prescription medication was not reasonable or related to the employee’s low back injury from October 2001.

The employee in this case received substantial treatment, including surgeries, for her low back injury but her symptoms continued and her condition remained unchanged.  In December 2012, at the employer’s request, Dr. Starzinski, a neurologist, reviewed the employee’s medical records and issued a report.  He concluded the employee’s use of certain prescription medications, including analgesic narcotics, were inappropriate to treat her chronic pain syndrome because the use of such narcotics could be “perpetuating and exacerbating the chronic pain process.”

Following a medical request, the employer requested a formal hearing, which took place in July 2013. The compensation judge considered all of the testimony, the medical records, and opinions of the employee’s treating doctors, as well as Dr. Starzinski’s report.  The judge adopted Dr. Starzinski’s opinions and denied the employee’s claim.

On appeal, the employee argued that the judge erred in relying on Dr. Starzinski’s report because his opinion lacked foundation.  The employee’s argument relied on the fact that Dr. Starzinski never examined the employee, he only reviewed her medical records.  Despite this lack of personal examination, the WCCA determined that because the employee had been taking the disputed medication for about four years, any benefit from the medications would have been documented in the voluminous medical records reviewed by Dr. Starzinski.  Therefore, adequate foundation to render an opinion on whether the prescription medication was reasonable and necessary to treat the 2001 work-related injury was established by a review of the medical records and a response to a hypothetical question.