Certified nursing assistant's surgeon prevails in battle of the experts
Case name: Peterson v. Evangelical Lutheran Good
Samaritan Society, No. 26214 (S.D. 06/27/12).
Ruling: The South Dakota Supreme Court held that a certified nursing assistant proved that her employment caused a work-related injury and remained a major contributing cause of her condition and need for treatment.
What it means: In South Dakota, the opinion of an examining physician should be given substantial weight when compared to the opinion of a doctor who only reviewed the worker's medical records.
Summary: A certified nursing assistant for a nursing home injured her back while helping move a resident into bed. Following treatment, she returned to work with no restrictions. The next year, she experienced a flare-up of a previous ankle injury and began wearing a walking boot to work. The CNA bent down to help a resident with a wheelchair foot pedal and felt a sharp pain go through her lower back when she stood back up. She complained to her supervisor of back pain. The next day, her pain was worse. A CT scan revealed a disk protrusion. She sought assistance from an orthopedic surgeon. After an examination, the surgeon opined that her work activities cause her pain. The nursing home's insurer retained a physiatrist to review the CNA's medical records. The physiatrist opined that the CNA's back injury was not caused by her work. The CNA filed a claim. The South Dakota Supreme Court held that she proved that her employment caused a work-related injury and remained a major contributing cause of her condition and need for treatment.
The court agreed with the CNA's argument that the surgeon's opinion should have been given greater weight because he examined her, his credentials were superior to the physiatrist's, and he had a better understanding of the facts of the incident and her medical history. The court explained that the surgeon personally took a history from the CNA. The surgeon was a board-certified orthopedic surgeon for 20 years while the physiatrist was only board certified in independent medical examinations.
The court believed the physiatrist adhered to an incorrect view of the incident and failed to consider her history. The physiatrist incorrectly believed that the CNA failed to report the incident.
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August 27, 2012
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