Chronic pain, limited education support award of permanent benefits
Case name: Grauberger v. Atlas Van Lines, Inc., No. SD32139, SD 32154 (Mo. Ct. App. 03/04/13).
Ruling: The Missouri Court of Appeals held that a worker was entitled to permanent total disability benefits.
What it means: In Missouri, a worker is entitled to PTD benefits if he is unable to return to any employment.
Summary: A worker for a moving company was bending over to put padding on a nightstand when he felt pain in his lower back. X-rays revealed a herniated disk, and surgery was performed. After surgery, the worker experienced some improvement but continued to suffer from substantial pain and numbness in his legs. He had knots in his back and walked with a limp. His attempts to return to work failed. He sought permanent total disability benefits. The Missouri Court of Appeals held that he was entitled to PTD benefits.
An independent medical examiner found that he had "failed back syndrome" because conservative treatment and surgery did not relieve his symptoms. The examiner also noted that he had chronic muscle spasms and would continue to have persistent problems with his back. A vocational rehabilitation counselor said that the worker's limited education and poor test results indicated that he could not be retrained. The counselor further opined that the worker was unemployable in the open labor market because of his back injury. The court found this evidence supported an award of PTD benefits. The court found that the company's argument that the worker could work in the light or medium category ignored the evidence of his chronic pain.
The court also rejected the company's argument that the worker's age and limited potential for retraining could not be considered in determining whether he was permanently and totally disabled. The court explained that the worker's age and potential for retraining were factors that affected whether an employer could reasonably be expected to hire him.
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June 3, 2013
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