Mohamed v. Viracon, Inc.

Mohamed v. Viracon, Inc., WC12-5479 (W.C.C.A. Jan. 4, 2013)

The issues in this case were whether the Employee sustained any permanent partial
disability as a result of his consequential psychological condition, the extent of
any permanent injury and the appropriate Weber rating, and whether or not he was
permanently and totally disabled. The W.C.C.A. affirmed the compensation judge.

The Employee sustained a severe, admitted work-related injury when his right hand was
caught in machine rollers on December 18, 2008. His right hand was crushed and his
index finger was partially degloved. At least thirteen right surgeries were performed
throughout the next two years. Parts of the employee’s right thumb and his entire right
index finger were amputated, and he had nerve damage to his hand as well as a crush
injury to the middle finger. The Employer, Insurer, and Employee stipulated that there
was 39.9% permanent partial disability to the right hand itself.

The Employee treated for psychological issues stemming from the trauma of the accident
and his ongoing pain. These issues included PTSD, chronic pain syndrome, and major
depressive disorder. Dr. Cronin found that the Employee sustained a permanent
psychological injury, but since there is no provision in the permanency schedules for
PPD due to psychological injury, he assigned a rating by analogy to the section
governing emotional disturbances, Minn. R. 5223.0360. Assigning a permanency rating
to an unscheduled injury in this manner is permitted by Weber v. City of Inver Grove
Heights, 461 N.W.2d 918 (Minn. 1990). Dr. Cronin assigned 27% because he felt the
Employee’s injury was between mild (20% rating) and moderate (40% rating). The
employer and insurer had the Employee examined by Dr. Rauenhorst, who felt that the
Employee suffered from resolving PTSD, but that he did not have depression, chronic
pain syndrome, or any ratable permanency from a psychological standpoint. The
compensation judge adopted Dr. Cronin’s opinion and found the Employee sustained a
27% permanent partial disability as a result of his psychological injury. The Employer
and Insurer appealed, but the W.C.C.A. found that substantial evidence, including Dr.
Cronin’s deposition testimony and the medical records, supported the finding that the
Employee had sustained a 27% permanent partial disability as a result of his
psychological injury.

The other issue was whether the Employee was permanently and totally disabled. Each
side had vocational and medical experts supporting its respective position on the issue.
The compensation judge adopted the Employee’s experts’ opinions that the Employee
was unable to work due to his physical and psychological disabilities, his lack of
transferable skills, and his language and cultural barriers. The W.C.C.A. upheld this
determination, holding that substantial evidence supported the compensation judge’s
decision. Further, they held that the Employee’s vocational psychologists’ expert opinion
did not lack foundation simply because he had not indicated which records he reviewed.
The expert had conducted tests and a clinical evaluation, providing him with enough of a
foundation to form his opinion.