An office worker who was injured while removing a file from a 'jammed up' filing cabinet is entitled to benefits because her workplace accident was the 'prevailing factor' in her medical condition, the Missouri Court of Appeals has ruled.
In February 2008, Tammy Moore-Ransdell was injured while working as a deeds clerk in the Randolph County, Missouri, assessor's office, according to court records. She was trying to remove a file from an “extremely full” and “jammed up” filing cabinet on the bottom of a file drawer when she twisted her body and “immediately experienced extreme pain” in her lower back.
Ms. Moore-Ransdell finished work in spite of the pain, but she was in too much pain to get out of bed the following day, records show. She told her supervisor about the injury a week later and was referred to an orthopedic surgeon for an evaluation. She told the physician that she was experiencing “low back pain, pain in her buttocks, and numbness in her entire left leg,” according to records.
Randolph County denied Ms. Moore-Ransdell's claim for workers compensation benefits, but she continued physical therapy and pain management on her own, records show.
In July 2008, she underwent a procedure that showed degeneration of the bottom three discs in her back, records show. Her orthopedic surgeon recommended surgery, but she opted for “a more conservative treatment plan” to manage the pain.
In August 2010, an X-ray showed that her back had gotten worse, and an MRI showed further degeneration of the discs, records show. Her physician wrote in a letter that her “continuing symptoms and her need for surgery are directly related to the work injury in February 2008.” She underwent anterior fusion surgery in November 2010, and her back and leg pain improved.
According to records, a hearing was held before an administrative law Judge in October 2012 regarding Ms. Moore-Ransdell's workers comp claim. She testified that, as a result of her February 2008 injury, she was “unable to sit comfortably for more than 45 to 50 minutes and to stand for more than 30 to 40 minutes without having increasing pain in her low back and difficulty walking. She is prescribed Vicodin for pain, medication for nerve pain, muscle relaxers, and Cymbalta for depression.”
Her physician testified that, prior to her work accident, Ms. Moore-Ransdell had degenerative disc disease, “a condition that progresses over time due to aging and normal activities,” records show.
Despite the information about Ms. Moore-Ransdell's degenerative disc disease, the administrative law judge determined that she was entitled to $130,574 for her medical expenses, temporary total disability benefits for 100 weeks, and permanent partial disability benefits based on 25% disability to the body as a whole, records show. Randolph County filed an application for review with the Missouri Labor and Industrial Relations Commission, which affirmed the judge's decision.
On Tuesday, a split Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the commission's decision to award Ms. Moore-Ransdell benefits.
The ruling states that for an injury by accident to be considered compensable, the accident must be “the prevailing factor in causing both the resulting medical condition and disability.”
In a written opinion, the dissenting judge said Ms. Moore-Ransdell's degenerative disc issues were “apparently inevitable in spite of the workplace strain or that the disability determination is based only on the continuing pain (she) suffers rather than on the workplace injury.”