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An appeals court in Louisiana on Tuesday dismissed the workers compensation claim filed by a cleaner at an aircraft propeller shop who had previous back problems and was diagnosed with degenerative issues before injuring herself at work in what a workers compensation judge referred to as a “minor injury” that occurred two years before she filed a claim.
About two months after she was terminated due to a reduction in the workforce at Kelps & Will Prop Shop LLC in Houma, Louisiana, in 2016, Dawn Guy filed a workers comp claim for an injury she claimed to have suffered in 2014 while lifting a garbage bag, according to documents in Dawn Guy v. Kelps & Will Prop Shop, filed in the Court of Appeal of Louisiana, First Circuit in Baton Rouge.
Ms. Guy later informed the bookkeeper of her injury and testified that she was told “to go to the doctor and that the company would reimburse her for the visit,” records state, adding that the bookkeeper later testified that she did not know of Mrs. Guy's injury until after the doctor visit when Ms. Guy asked to be reimbursed a co-pay.
Records show she was treated on the same day of her alleged injury, when she said she approached the bookkeeper, yet testified at trial that the injury “actually occurred about a week prior to that date.” Her medical records reveal that she complained of mid-back pain only at that time, with no complaints being made as to her low back, right hip, or in the groin area. Her medical records also reveal that she had previously seen that same doctor earlier in 2014, complaining of low back pain, among other issues, records state.
Other doctors treated Ms. Guy for subsequent visits beginning in early 2015, in which she made no complaints of back or hip pain, records state. However, later that year she went to another doctor with “a multitude of complaints, including right hip pain.”
“There was no notation in the medical record of how long she had been suffering hip pain, and following an X-ray, (the doctor) determined she had mild degenerative changes in the hip” and later testified that an MRI of Ms. Guy's hip was ultimately performed on April 28, 2015, indicating a “history of right hip pain from a fall.”
She made no mention of back or hip pain at visits in 2016, records state.
Yet a chiropractor, beginning in August 2015 for three to four months, treated Ms. Guy's entire spine and her right hip, records state.
In September 2016, nearly two years after the workplace injury, Ms. Guy saw a neurosurgeon, complaining of low back pain, right hip pain, and balance issues. “She provided information in a pre-appointment questionnaire that indicated she had not been hurt at work,” records state.
Medical imaging two years after the incident “reflected some mild facet changes” but “an otherwise normal lumbar spine,” records state.
Ms. Guy did not provide a history to the neurosurgeon of any accidents or trauma or that her condition was work-related, and she was not treated following the visits. However, “his medical records note that she was turning the matter over to workers' compensation. When asked if her spinal condition was related to a work injury, (the doctor) testified that he did not have a history from the patient of a work-related injury,” testifying “that someone cannot pick up a box and develop the degree of degenerative disease suffered by Mrs. Guy.”
After a claim denial, a workers compensation judge in 2018 determined that Ms. Guy’s “minor accident on or around October 23, 2014,” resulted in a “minor muscle strain to her mid-back.”
“The WCJ also found that because Mrs. Guy's $30.00 co-pay was reimbursed by (her employer), she was not entitled to any additional medical benefits,” the ruling states.
“The WCJ also determined that Mrs. Guy had not carried her burden of proof that any injuries to her lower back, right hip, or cervical spine were caused by an accident or injury within the course and scope of her employment,” records state.
In affirming the ruling, the three-judge appeals panel found the earlier judge’s ruling to be backed by “facts,” writing: “we do not find the ruling to be manifestly erroneous or clearly wrong.”
An attorney for Ms. Guy and officials and the attorney representing Kelps & Will Prop Shop could not immediately be reached for comment.
An insurer’s claim for breach of contract against Travelers Cos. Inc. in a dispute over an unissued workers compensation policy may proceed, a district court held Friday.