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Court affirms miner’s loss in quest for total disability award


A West Virginia appeals court has affirmed a decision denying a permanent total disability award to an injured worker.

The issue on appeal is whether Warren Farmer met the threshold for further consideration of a permanent total disability award after a claims administrator denied his application in August 2015, according to the decision in Farmer v. West Virginia Office of Insurance Commissioner, published by the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia on Thursday.

Mr. Farmer was employed as a coal miner for more than 25 years, during which time he sustained several work-related injuries, including electrocution in a 1972 mine accident, according to court documents. Mr. Farmer experienced anxiety, insomnia, headaches and post-traumatic neurosis. In the following years, Mr. Farmer underwent numerous medical examinations and treatment for these and other injuries.

The Permanent Total Disability Review Board adopted a medical report that found 45% whole person impairment related to all Mr. Farmer’s compensable injuries as a final recommendation in August 2015, with a claims administrator denying Mr. Farmer's application for a permanent total disability award shortly thereafter.

Under West Virginia law, a claimant must have greater than 50% whole body medical impairment to be considered for a permanent total disability award. The review board found that Mr. Farmer did not meet the threshold because he suffered from only 45% whole person impairment and the medical evidence of record did not suggest that Mr. Farmer sustained a higher level of impairment, according to the court’s ruling affirming the decision. 

The facts and legal arguments were adequately presented, and the decision-making process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the court said in issuing its memorandum decision, which means the court’s ruling is not subject to appeal by the dissatisfied party.

An attorney for Mr. Farmer could not be immediately reached for comment.