Rasmussen v. Imperial Plastics, Inc. and State Fund Mut. Ins. Co.

Rasmussen v. Imperial Plastics, Inc. and State Fund Mut. Ins. Co., No. WC13-5616 (February 4, 2014)

The WCCA affirmed a compensation judge’s determination that the employee’s testimony alleging a work-related injury was not credible.

In April 2009, the employee first sought medical treatment for his low back.  The medical record indicates there was no specific injury and the pain “just came on.”  The employee saw a chiropractor and another doctor and the description of his injury remained the same—there was no specific injury.  Around this time, too, the employee filled out the First Report of Injury.  When asked to describe what caused the injury, the employee wrote “lot of walking from each end of building continuous climbing up and down machines.”

Because conservative treatment was not helping, the employee was scheduled to undergo a laminectomy and disc excision in June 2009. At a pre-op physical, the employee first reported he noticed low back pain after jumping off of a machine at work on April 17, 2009.

After this information came out, the employee’s attorney corresponded with the employee’s treating doctor who opined that if it was determined the employee had jumped off a machine and experienced immediate back and leg pain, then the work activities most likely contributed to the employee’s herniated disc.  At the employer and insurer’s request, Dr. Charles Burton performed an independent medical examination and opined the alleged jumping incident on April 17, 2009 was not a substantial contributing cause of the disc herniation and diagnosed the employee with multilevel degenerative disc pathology.

At the hearing, the employee testified about the alleged specific work incident that occurred on April 17, 2009.  The employee also produced his treating doctor’s letter and the deposition testimony from a co-worker who apparently saw the employee jump off of the machine.

The compensation judge found the employee’s testimony was not credible, that he did not sustain a work-related injury on April 17, 2009, and determined the correct diagnosis was multilevel degenerative disc disease.

On appeal, the employee argued substantial evidence did not support the judge’s finding. The WCCA pointed out the employee’s testimony about the alleged specific injury was inconsistent with medical records in which the employee stated he did not know how his low back pain began.  Additionally, the employee’s hearing testimony is also contrary with the First Report of Injury he filled out.

The employee also argued the judge failed to give adequate consideration to his fellow employee and witness’ deposition testimony.  The WCCA noted the judge is not obligated to discuss or mention every piece of evidence submitted in a case.  Further, the testimony was weakened based on the fact the witness testified he had been a meth addict and could not recall with certainty the details of the alleged specific injury.

The employee also attacked the judge’s lack of consideration for his treating doctor’s opinion that the injury was caused by jumping off a machine.  But the WCCA clarified the treating doctor had opined only that “if” it was determined the employee jumped off the platform and experienced immediate back pain, “then” the doctor was of the opinion the work activities contributed to the herniated disc.  Because the judge did not find the employee’s testimony about the cause of the injury to be credible, the WCCA found the record supported the judge’s denial of the employee’s claim.