Georgia Pacific Corp. v. Olson, No. 39061-2-II (Wash. Ct. App. 08/03/10, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the Washington Court of Appeals held that a millwright was temporarily totally disabled for a two-year time period and entitled to time loss benefits and further treatment. The court also awarded attorney's fees to the millwright.
What it means: Vocational testimony, while relevant and admissible, is not necessary to establish total disability. It can be established by the testimony of the worker and his doctors.
Summary: A millwright had a history of wrist injuries. He began having pain in his fingers that spread to his hands, wrists and forearms. He was diagnosed with arthritis. A doctor prohibited him from working as a millwright. The millwright applied for workers' compensation benefits, and the claim was later closed. The millwright contended that he was entitled to further treatment, time loss benefits for a two-year period, and either a pension or permanent partial disability award. The Washington Court of Appeals found that the millwright was temporarily totally disabled for the two-year period and that he had not reached maximum medical improvement so he was entitled to time loss benefits and further treatment. The court awarded attorney's fees to the millwright because the court sustained his right to relief in the employer's appeal.
The employer argued that its vocational and medical experts demonstrated that the millwright was capable of working during the two-year time period. The court noted that the vocational expert admitted that the millwright had no transferrable skills and would need retraining for a new job. The millwright testified that he could not have worked because of his wrist pain. The millwright's doctor advised him not to perform repetitive gripping of tools or equipment and to limit his sweeping with a broom, typing, and driving. This evidence showed the millwright's inability to work.
The employer also argued that it was appropriate to close the claim because the millwright's wrist condition was fixed and stable. A doctor testified that the millwright would benefit from surgery, but the millwright did not state that he had refused surgery or that he wished to pursue it. Therefore, the millwright's condition was not fixed, and he had not reached maximum medical improvement.
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October 28, 2010
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