Worker's hypochondria, psychiatrist's speculations nix causation
Case name: Peters v. Belk, Inc., No. 2010-WC-00438-COA (Mo. Ct. App. 03/01/11).
Ruling: The Missouri Court of Appeals held that a worker was not permanently and totally disabled.
What it means: In Missouri, a doctor's speculations that an injury is causally related to a work-related incident will not support a causal connection.
Summary: A worker for a department store alleged that she injured her neck when she had to move and unpack boxes of inventory at work. The worker sought treatment from numerous doctors. A neurologist noted that the worker complained of numerous symptoms but had difficulty explaining them. The neurologist also noted that she described her symptoms in an exaggerated way. The worker denied being depressed and was close to tears during her appointment. The worker stated that she was depressed and suicidal during a visit with a psychiatrist. She was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and psychosomatic pain. The worker returned to work, and the store accommodated each of her requests to transfer to different departments. A doctor evaluated the worker at the request of the store. He concluded that she suffered from hypochondriasis and concluded that her personality traits were not work-related. The Missouri Court of Appeals held that the worker was not permanently and totally disabled.
The court found that the worker did not demonstrate that her depression was causally related to her neck injury. Her psychiatrist testified that he believed her depression was related to her work injury but conceded that his belief was speculation. Other doctors testified that there was no causal connection.
The court noted that the worker relied on her depression in support of her claim of permanent disability since no physician assigned a permanent impairment rating on her neck injury.
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April 28, 2011
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