Pablo-Meletz v. Hastings Foods, No. A-12-523 (Neb. Ct. App. 03/12/13, unpublished).
Ruling: The Nebraska Court of Appeals held that a worker was entitled to future medical benefits and vocational rehabilitation.
What it means: In Nebraska, the fact that a worker was not taking pain medication did not mean that he would not need medication in the future.
A meat slicer was placing meat into a skinning machine when the glove on his right hand was caught, pulling his right hand, fingers, and thumb into the machine. He suffered significant lacerations to his fingers and palm. After experiencing a lack of sensation, pain radiating into his neck, and cold intolerance, he underwent surgery. A rehabilitation specialist prescribed pain medication. The orthopedic surgeon opined that there was a significant risk of recurrent contracture that could require additional surgeries. The surgeon also opined that the worker required continuing use of the medication on an indefinite basis. During a follow-up visit, the specialist noted poor consistency with the worker's use of medication. The Nebraska Court of Appeals held that he was entitled to future medical benefits and vocational rehabilitation.
The employer argued that the worker was not entitled to future medical benefits because he had not taken pain medication for four years and did not follow up with his doctors. The court said the fact that he was not taking medication did not rule out the possibility of doing so in the future. His need for medication was established by various doctors. The court also said that the worker could require further surgical procedures.
The court also found that the worker was entitled to vocational rehabilitation, given the nature of his injury and his "vocational-educational makeup." His pain caused him to work slowly with one hand. These problems caused him to miss work, and he was terminated. He was unable to return to the type of work that he was engaging in before his injury.
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June 10, 2013
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