Minn. Compensation Judge Had Sufficient Evidence to Find in Worker's Favor

28 Feb, 2023 Frank Ferreri

                               

Minneapolis, MN (WorkersCompensation.com) -- As happens in many legal cases, workers' compensation claims that go through the system of judges and appeals often have two sides to the story.

Such was the case in Eull v. Metal Sales & Mfg., No. WC22-6471 (Minn. W.C.C. App. 02/09/23), where an appeals ruling found that the judge was within her discretion to find that the evidence pointed in the worker's favor, even if someone else could see it differently.

A laborer for a manufacturer worked 10-hour shifts without restrictions prior to his injury, which occurred when he was wrapping and lifting a 75-pound piece of metal overhead and heard a “pop” in his shoulder. 

Initially, the worker was prescribed Ibuprofen and released to return to work with a lifting restriction of 5 pounds and no reaching above his shoulders. 

Later, an MRI scan revealed joint hypertrophy and significant joint osteolysis, for which the worker received injections without relief. The worker saw another physician, with reports of constant high pain levels. This physician ordered physical therapy and imposed work restrictions.  

When the worker underwent an independent medical examination, the physician opined that the worker’s shoulder injury had resolved with no objective findings supporting the worker’s complaints of pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness. The physician assessed the worker to be at maximum medical improvement. 

The worker continued to see other doctors and undergo physical therapy and eventually sought workers’ compensation benefits. The compensation judge found that worker’s work injury had not resolved, but also found that Botox injections were not reasonable and necessary medical care. 

The worker underwent another IME, after which the physician that conducted it opined that the worker had sustained a resolved “mild myoligamentous sprain/strain of the cervicothoracic spine” and did not require restrictions or further medical treatment. 

In response to a claim petition the worker filed, a compensation judge found that, as a result of the work injury, the worker sustained a consequential neck injury. The judge awarded the claimed medical care, prompting the employer and its insurer to appeal to the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals. 

In Minnesota, on an appeal of a compensation judge’s decision, it is the appeals court’s job to determine whether the judge’s findings are supported by the evidence that “a reasonable mind might accept as adequate.” 

In this case, the court found that there was sufficient evidence to support the judge’s decision. The court explained that the judge based her decision on: 

  • The medical opinion of a board-certified anesthesiologist and pain management physician, who took a history from the employee and examined the employee on several occasions. This doctor reviewed the employee’s treatment record and the opinions of other doctors who saw the worker. 
  • The worker’s testimony, which the judge found credible. 

Although there was evidence that did not support the worker’s case, the court found that the judge made her determination based on what she considered the stronger side. 

“The question on appeal is not whether there was evidence by which the judge might have reached a different conclusion, but whether there is sufficient evidence in the record to support the decision,” the court reasoned. 

Finding the compensation judge’s findings sufficient, the court affirmed her ruling in the worker’s favor. 

Keep up to speed on Minnesota and the rest of the U.S. with WorkCompResearch. 

 

 

 

 


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    About The Author

    • Frank Ferreri

      Frank Ferreri, M.A., J.D. covers workers' compensation legal issues. He has published books, articles, and other material on multiple areas of employment, insurance, and disability law. Frank received his master's degree from the University of South Florida and juris doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

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