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A former school cafeteria worker failed to show that her employer must continue to pay for joint injections into her back despite their limited use approval under state worker compensation treatment parameters.
In Leuthard v. Independent School District 912-Milaca, the Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday vacated an appellate court opinion after holding that the court erred in finding the worker’s injury constituted a “rare case exception” to allow for the deviation from treatment guidelines.
Margaret Leuthard worked as a school cafeteria dishwasher. After a year of employment, she began feeling pain in her neck and reported difficulty looking upward. A physician found that the repetitive stress of her job had created an injury to her upper neck and spine, and over the next four years, she underwent various diagnostic tests and tried multiple treatments for her injury.
In July 2008, after the other treatments failed to provide relief, she began receiving quarterly facet joint injections in her back for the next eight years and continued to take pain medication.
In September 2017, an independent medical examiner reviewed her case at that request of the school district, and concluded that the joint injections were not meant for long-term use under state workers comp treatment parameters, which set forth reasonable medical treatment for compensable, work-related injuries. As a result, future reimbursement for the injections was denied.
Ms. Leuthard requested a hearing, arguing that the injections were reasonable and necessary, but a workers compensation judge rejected her request, holding that the injections did not provide lasting relief and were a departure from the applicable treatment parameters.
She appealed to the Workers Compensation Court of Appeals, which reversed the judge’s order in a 2-1 ruling on the basis that Ms. Leuthard’s case was “a rare case warranting a departure from the treatment parameters.” The school district appealed to the state’s supreme court, which reviewed the decision.
The court reversed the appellate court’s decision, holding that Ms. Leuthard’s ongoing facet joint injections did not comply with the treatment parameters and that there was no evidence to support a departure from those parameters.
The court found that that the relief Ms. Leuthard received from the injections was “variable” and her medical records “showed a lack of any progressive, objective, clinical improvement over several years of injections.” The court also rejected the notion that her case was rare, noting that she did not raise the “rare case exception” before the workers compensation judge, and therefore could not do so in appeal.
As a result, the court reversed the appellate court decision and reinstated the decision of the compensation judge.
A roustabout failed to show that an oil rig owner was negligent when he injured his back moving a washing machine on the rig’s platform.