A worker who suffered a brain aneurysm five months after being injured on the job is entitled to permanent and total disability benefits, the 1st Louisiana Circuit Court of Appeal has ruled.
Joseph Francis Jackson was a Louisiana employee of Waynesboro, Mississippi-based T.K. Stanley Inc., which provides construction services to the oil and gas industry, according to court records. In August 2009, Mr. Jackson was holding a posthole digger above his head, preparing to place it in the ground, when he lost his balance and dropped it on his head. He was wearing a hard hat at the time, court records show.
Less than one week after the incident, Mr. Jackson saw his family doctor, who diagnosed him with a contusion and said he could return to work, according to court records.
Mr. Jackson continued working until January 2010, when he underwent a CAT scan at the Thibodaux Regional Medical Center in Thibodaux, Louisana, after complaining of headaches, shortness of breath and dizziness, records show. He was diagnosed with an intraparenchymal hemorrhage in the left temporal and adjacent parietal lobes of the brain with subarachnoid hemorrhage and transferred to the West Jefferson Medical Center in New Orleans for emergency treatment by a neurosurgeon that included a resection of a fusiform aneurysm, according to records.
Records show that in August 2010, one year after Mr. Jackson was injured on the job, he filed a disputed claim for compensation alleging a “severe head injury … requiring surgical intervention.”
Stanley said there was no connection between the accident and Mr. Jackson's aneurysm. However, in July 2011, his treating neurosurgeon said the head trauma Mr. Jackson suffered in 2009 was the cause of his intracerebral hemorrhage, according to records.
A second neurosurgeon, who was chosen by Stanley to evaluate Mr. Jackson, said Mr. Jackson's 2009 injury was unrelated to his January 2010 aneurysm and hemorrhage, records show.
A hearing officer for the Louisiana Workers' Compensation Administration then appointed a third neurosurgeon to evaluate Mr. Jackson in July 2012. That surgeon said he didn't think Mr. Jackson's aneurysm was caused by the work-related injury, according to records.
A trial addressing the dispute was held in April 2013, and in July of that year the hearing officer found that Mr. Jackson's work-related injury had caused him to develop a fusiform aneurysm, records show. Mr. Jackson was found “permanently and totally disabled, and entitled to all reasonable and necessary medical treatment related to his workers' compensation injury.”
Stanley appealed the judgment, saying the hearing officer “disregarded the weight of the medical evidence.”
Opinion of treating neurosurgeon valued
In response, the workers comp commission hearing officer wrote in an opinion: “All three neurosurgeons acknowledged that trauma-induced fusiform aneurysms can be slow to develop. They all agreed that time may elapse between a trauma occurring and the actual worsening of the condition to the status of an aneurysm which ruptures.”
The officer further noted that the physician who performed the Mr. Jackson’s surgery was in the best position to evaluate Mr. Jackson.
On May 30, a three-judge panel of the 1st Louisiana Circuit Court of Appeal unanimously affirmed the hearing officer’s judgment that Mr. Jackson’s aneurysm and surgery were a result of his work-related injury, entitling him to permanent and total disability benefits, records show.
“The finding of disability within the framework of the workers compensation law is a legal rather than a purely medical determination,” the ruling states.