Proffer v. Federal Mogul Corp., No. SD30871 (Mo. Ct. App. 05/10/11).
Ruling: The Missouri Court of Appeals held that a maintenance worker was entitled to permanent total disability benefits, past medical expenses, and six months of temporary total disability when the worker's first surgery resulted in a nonfusion and he required a second cervical fusion surgery.
What it means: In Missouri, complications arising from surgery needed to treat a work-related injury may be covered by workers' compensation.
A maintenance worker for a piston manufacturer was pushing a 55-gallon drum up a ramp when a wheel fell in a hole, causing him to twist and strain his neck. He experienced numbness, headaches, and neck pain. The manufacturer authorized a referral to an orthopedic surgeon, who performed a cervical fusion. After surgery, the worker experienced dizziness and nausea. He requested the manufacturer authorize further treatment, but he was told to seek care on his own. He saw a neurosurgeon, who opined a cervical interface was not solidly fused in the first surgery. The neurosurgeon performed a second fusion surgery. The worker's neck pain and dizziness decreased but did not end. He never returned to work because he suffered dizziness, nausea, and numbness in his arms, and he could not walk, sit, or sleep for extended periods of time. He sought benefits. The Missouri Court of Appeals held that he was entitled to permanent total disability benefits, past medical expenses, and six months of temporary total disability.
The manufacturer argued that the worker's dizziness was not work-related. The court disagreed. The neurosurgeon opined that the dizziness was "more likely than not" caused by the first surgery. Another doctor attributed the worker's vertigo to the work accident and the first surgery. The manufacturer offered conflicting medical testimony, but the overwhelming weight of the evidence went in favor of the worker. The court concluded that the second surgery was medically necessary and work-related.
The manufacturer also argued that the worker was not permanently totally disabled. The court noted that both vocational experts opined that the worker was unemployable. A doctor also opined that the work injury caused the worker's disability.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
July 7, 2011
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