Surveillance video, inaccurate medical history cast doubt on claim
Case name: Cedar Rapids Community School District, et al. v. Pease, No. 9-868/09-0724 (Iowa Ct. App. 04/08/10).
Ruling: The Iowa Court of Appeals reversed an award of benefits to a job coach, finding that she failed to establish a causal relationship between a 2005 right ankle injury and current problems she was having with her back, left ankle and depression.
What it means: When a doctor's opinion is based in part on an inaccurate medical history provided by the injured worker, and surveillance videos show the worker engaged in activities that contradict her testimony, she has not met her burden of establishing that her current symptoms are causally related to an old work injury.
Summary: A job coach slipped and fell in a work-related accident, injuring her right ankle. After a surgically inserted screw was removed, her doctor reported that she had a good range of motion and was planning to return to work without restrictions. Video surveillance taken of the employee depicted her walking around a Home Depot store without difficulty. A deputy commissioner awarded her permanent total disability benefits as a result of the slip and fall, finding that the accident aggravated preexisting back, neck and left ankle problems, as well as depression. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the evidence was insufficient to establish a causal relationship between the right ankle injury and any worsening of the employee's other conditions.
The court highlighted the fact that one of the medical opinions was based on an inaccurate history. The employee "downplayed" the depression she experienced prior to the right ankle injury and did not inform her doctor of the medications she was taking before the slip and fall. Further, on the day before the accident, she reported to another doctor that she was experiencing numerous symptoms, including fatigue, muscle spasms in her back, swelling in her feet, and pain in her ankles. Yet, she did not convey this information to the second doctor.
The court also noted that according to a third doctor, the employee's back pain was caused by her abnormal gait, which in turn was caused by the work-related ankle injury. However, the surveillance video the employer presented showed the employee walking around a store without any apparent problems. The video contradicted the employee's testimony that her mobility was restricted by the ankle injury.
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June 14, 2010
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