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The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled a man who injured his ankle at work and has been on opioids to manage his pain for much of the time since then does not meet the legal parameters now in place to prevent long-term use of opioids, reversing earlier rulings that permitted him to continue his medication.
William Johnson suffered a “severe” right ankle sprain in 2002 when he stepped on a piece of scrap metal while working for Darchuk’s Fabrication Inc.; the injury led to complex regional pain syndrome, for which he was prescribed a pain medication containing the opioid oxycodone, which is now regulated under Minnesota law, according to the ruling in Johnson v. Darchuk’s Fabrication, Inc., filed in St. Paul.
“As recently as 2016, Johnson's pain was present twenty-four hours a day, limited his physical activity, and interfered with his sleep. Medical records note, however, that there ‘might be alternatives to his current treatment regimen,’ including a new referral to a pain clinic if Johnson is willing, but that his condition is likely to be of ‘longstanding duration,’” according to Wednesday’s ruling.
In 2019 and 2020, state lawmakers urged the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industries to put in place parameters to measure whether treatment is reasonable and appropriate. Some cases that do not fit fully within a particular parameter could qualify as a “rare case,” and treatment may be continued, according to legal documents.
Earlier rulings found Mr. Johnson met a “rare case scenario” for opioid use to manage his pain. The state Supreme Court disagreed, stating the case lacked necessary evidence.
“Johnson has provided no justification for why his treatment is not compliant with the long-term opioid medication treatment parameter, and, therefore, the compensation judge and the (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals) erred as a matter of law in concluding that his non-compliance could be excused under the rare case exception,” the ruling stated.