Case name: Magee v. Thompson Creek Mining Co., No. 36352 2011 (Idaho 01/24/12).
Ruling: The Idaho Supreme Court held that a millwright was not entitled to an increase in benefits because he did not establish a change in his condition.
What it means: In Idaho, an injured worker alleging a change in condition must show an increased level of impairment.
Summary: A millwright for a mining company slipped or misstepped while walking up a flight of stairs at work. He fell on the stair's landing. He sought treatment for back pain that radiated into his right leg. He was awarded workers' compensation benefits. He sought an increase in benefits, alleging a change in his condition. He described his physical condition as "about the same" but was diagnosed with major depressive disorder with suicidal thoughts related to chronic pain and attributable to his work injury. His neurosurgeon implanted a spinal stimulator to diminish his pain. The Idaho Supreme Court held that the millwright was not entitled to an increase in benefits.
The court found that he failed to establish a change in condition warranting a modification of his benefits. The millwright contended that his major depressive disorder leading to suicidal thoughts was directly related to the chronic pain caused by his work-related accident. However, his physical condition did not change, and his depression improved. He was no longer suicidal after therapy and prescription antidepressants. Also, the implantation of the spinal stimulator significantly reduced his pain. His doctors agreed that his physical condition improved. He decreased his dependence on medication by half.
The court concluded that he was still capable of working in a sedentary to light capacity. A vocational consultant found that his employment capabilities improved following the implantation of the spinal stimulator.
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March 8, 2012
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