Officer can't connect back pain to compensable injury after shoveling snow
Case name: Leavitt v. State of Wyoming ex rel. Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division, No. S-12-0234 (Wyo. 08/12/13).
Ruling: The Wyoming Supreme Court held that an officer was not entitled to benefits for the back pain she experienced after shoveling snow.
What it means: In Wyoming, a worker will be unable to show that her pain was causally related to her work-related injury when there is evidence that other causes may have played a role.
A public information officer for a state tourism office escorted 10 journalists to various stops along the route of a dogsled race. She was required to drive 2,000 miles and load and unload her passengers' heavy luggage at hotels along the route. Midway through the trip, she began to experience back pain. An MRI revealed a herniated disk, and she underwent surgery. After surgery, her pain decreased. Her back required little medical attention for the next 12 years. More than 13 years after the work-related injury, the officer experienced back pain while shoveling snow. She sought to reopen her workers' compensation claim, asserting that her back pain was related to her prior compensable injury. The Wyoming Supreme Court held that she was not entitled to benefits.
The officer's doctor opined that her pain was a "continuation" of her prior injury rather than the result of shoveling snow. The court rejected the doctor's opinion, pointing out that he was unaware that there was a significant period of time after the work-related injury in which she received little treatment for lower back pain. The court pointed out that the doctor did not order testing that could have provided an objective basis for his causation opinion.
The doctor observed that the snow shoveling incident produced similar symptoms to the compensable incident but conceded that her pain after shoveling snow could have been caused by a variety of factors not related to her initial injury. The court concluded that the officer failed to establish that her back pain after shoveling snow was causally related to her compensable injury.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
October 28, 2013
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