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A makeup artist who injured her leg on a movie set cannot attach her anxiety, depression and increased blood pressure to her compensable workers compensation claim, an appeals court in Louisiana ruled Wednesday.
The woman was working for Entertainment Partners LLC in 2015 when she stepped into a pothole and twisted her left foot into her body, injuring her left ankle, left calf and left knee, and aggravating her pre-existing back condition. She also contended that she suffered a right knee injury and increased blood pressure, anxiety and depression as a result of the accident, according to No. 19-CA-118, filed in the Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit in Gretna, Louisiana.
The production company and its insurer. American International Group Inc., accepted responsibility for her physical injury caused by her stepping in the pothole but disputed before a workers compensation court the compensability of the other injuries, including the mental injuries and blood pressure, according to documents.
Court documents chronicle how several examining physicians over the course of three years documented her injury and pain, which she described as intensifying over time and aggravating a prior back injury. Several doctors testified they believed her pain was unrelated to her 2015 fall and that she herself had reported pain in her leg and back prior to her fall on the movie set, according to documents. The court also found that “the record shows that some of (her) doctors were not provided with accurate information regarding her back pain and symptoms prior to the … 2015 accident.”
The court also stated that the “record shows that (she) suffered from severe anxiety and depression prior to the … 2015 accident” and that she “did not prove that her symptoms increased after the accident.” One doctor testified that when he examined her two months prior to the accident, “she was anxious and depressed and he wanted her to increase her anti-depression medication in order to get these conditions ‘under control,’” documents state.
The workers compensation judge in January 2019 rendered a final amended judgment — after an earlier decision called for a new trial — finding that the production company “is responsible for reasonable medical treatment associated with her left knee, calf, and ankle,” but that the woman “did not meet her burden of proving that her lower back pain, right knee injury, and increased blood pressure, anxiety, and depression were causally related” to her 2015 accident. The judgment also denied her claims for additional compensation, penalties, and attorney fees.
The appellate court affirmed the earlier ruling on similar grounds: “Considering that (she) had anxiety and depression prior to the (2015) accident, that she did not begin taking blood pressure medication until 2017, and based on all of the testimony and evidence presented, we cannot say that the workers’ compensation court erred by finding that (she) did not prove by a preponderance of the evidence that she suffered an increase in blood pressure, anxiety, and depression as a result” of her work-related accident.
Jeffrey Napolitano, Metairie, Louisiana-based shareholder with Juge, Napolitano, Guilbeau, Ruli & Frieman PLC, the firm representing the insurer and employer, said in an email that the appellate decision came after it was clear that “there was conflicting medical opinions and evidence regarding whether the various complaints and injured body parts were caused by or aggravated by the job accident.”
The plaintiff’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.
The injuries sustained by a traveling salesman from his post-happy-hour car accident are not compensable, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania held Thursday in a 5-2 decision.