Doctors' opinions that injury was caused by sneeze properly rejected
DS Waters of America, LP v. Prabucki, No. A143117 (Or. Ct. App. 01/12/11).
Ruling: The Oregon Court of Appeals held that a worker was injured on the job and was entitled to benefits for a disk herniation.
What it means: In Oregon, medical opinions that do not consider that a worker's injury was work-related may be rejected as unpersuasive.
Summary: A worker claimed that he began to experience neck pain while raising his arms to load coffee products into a delivery truck at work. His pain worsened with a sneeze. An MRI revealed that he had a disk herniation, as well as spondylosis. The employer denied the workers' compensation claim. The worker's doctor and surgeon opined that the worker's neck condition was work-related. In contrast, doctors who provided the employer with independent medical examinations opined that the worker's injury was not work-related. They also opined that the worker's on-the-job activity combined with a preexisting degenerative disease to cause the disk herniation and the preexisting condition was the major contributing cause of the combined condition. Their opinions assumed that the worker's symptoms were associated with sneezing or coughing rather than a work injury. The Oregon Court of Appeals held that substantial evidence supported a finding that the worker experienced his injury on the job.
The employer contended that its doctors' opinions should have been given greater weight. The court said that the doctors did not consider or weigh a contribution from the worker's work, so the opinions were rejected as unpersuasive.
The employer also argued that one doctor's addendum report was incorrectly excluded from evidence. The court said the report was based on the same underlying premise of the doctor's earlier opinion that the worker's symptoms were triggered by a sneeze rather than work activity. Even if the report was considered, the outcome of the case would not have been different.
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March 7, 2011
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