Newgard-Gray v. Travelers and New Hampshire Ins./Constitution State Servs., et al., No. WC16-5913 (W.C.C.A. July 28, 2016)
Employee appealed the compensation judge’s conclusion that employee did not sustain work related injuries to both upper extremities either a specific injury on August 12, 2013 or as a result of a Gillette injury. The standard of review is substantial evidence supported by a well-founded medical opinion.
Employee was moving offices at work and when she placed boxes of office equipment onto a cart she felt a pop in her neck followed by pain that radiated from her neck down her left arm. After a MRI scan and several provider visits, it was concluded that employee had an injury to the cervical spine with radiculitis into the left arm, had left ulnar nerve/cubital tunnel and left carpal tunnel symptoms, as well as right upper extremity symptoms with right carpal tunnel syndrome.
Employee claimed that the cervical injury of the August 12, 2013 incident was a substantial contributing factor to the symptoms of the left ulnar nerve/cubital tunnel and left carpal tunnel symptoms as well as right upper extremity symptoms with right carpal tunnel syndrome. This argument was supported by Dr. Kirksson.
Dr. Friedland, on the other hand, concluded that the injury of August 12, 2013, was an aggravation of chronic pre-existing degenerative disc disease and that there is no connection between the work injury and the employee’s carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel symptoms. In addition, Dr. Friedland stated an opinion that medical literature does not provide a correlation between typing and carpal tunnel or cubital tunnel syndromes.
The WCCA affirmed the workers’ compensation judges opinion citing to Schuette v. City of Hutchingson, 843, N.W.2d 233, 237, 74 W.C.D. 169, 173 (Minn. 2014), which allows the compensation judge to use discretion when choosing between competing and conflicting medical experts’ reports and opinions. The WCCA indicated that the workers’ compensation judge accepted Dr. Friedland’s opinion that the employee was genetically predisposed to compressive neuropathies over the opinion of Dr. Kirksson. Lastly, the WCCA concluded that substantial evidence supported the compensation judge’s decision.