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Moyle v. Patton Building Services, Inc.

Supreme Court of West Virginia

July 6, 2017

JAMES P. MOYLE, Claimant Below, Petitioner
PATTON BUILDING SERVICES, INC., Employer Below, Respondent

         BOR Appeal No. 2051076, Claim No. 2015015153


         Petitioner James P. Moyle, by Robert L. Stultz, his attorney, appeals the decision of the West Virginia Workers' Compensation Board of Review. Patton Building Services, Inc., by Timothy E. Huffman, its attorney, filed a timely response.

         The issues on appeal are whether Mr. Moyle is entitled to additional temporary total disability benefits and whether he is entitled to medical treatment for his lumbar spine. On June 1, 2015 and June 15, 2015, the claims administrator denied a request for payment of temporary total disability benefits. On July 9, 2015, the claims administrator denied authorization for an L3-L4 and L4-L5 decompressive laminotomy. The Office of Judges affirmed the three decisions in its February 1, 2016, Order. The Order was affirmed by the Board of Review on July 8, 2016. The Court has carefully reviewed the records, written arguments, and appendices contained in the briefs, and the case is mature for consideration.

         This Court has considered the parties' briefs and the record on appeal. The facts and legal arguments are adequately presented, and the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument. Upon consideration of the standard of review, the briefs, and the record presented, the Court finds no substantial question of law and no prejudicial error. For these reasons, a memorandum decision is appropriate under Rule 21 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure.

         Mr. Moyle, a maintenance worker, slipped on a bumper getting out of a truck on November 6, 2014. His claim was originally denied by the claims administrator on December 8, 2014, but was later held compensable for lumbar sprain/strain and cervical sprain/strain by Order of the Office of Judges on March 26, 2015.[1] Prior to slipping on the bumper, Mr. Moyle sought medical treatment with Bill Underwood, M.D., for chronic lumbar spine pain in early 2013. A May 31, 2013, lumbar MRI revealed disc bulging at L1-L2 and L3-L4 as well as facet degenerative changes and disc herniation at L4-L5 with thickening of the ligamentum flavum and facet degenerative changes. However, due to the severity of his cervical spine condition, Dr. Underwood recommended he treat the cervical spine first. On June 20, 2013, he underwent a cervical spine fusion at C4-C7.

         Mr. Moyle received epidural steroid injections at L4-L5 on August 15, 2013, and at L3-L4 on August 22, 2014. Mr. Moyle also had a lumbar MRI on August 22, 2014, that revealed multilevel degenerative changes including an L5-S1 disc herniation, L1-L2 and L3-L4 disc bulges, an L4-L5 disc herniation, and spinal stenosis. He was diagnosed with intractable low back pain, degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis, lumbar disc herniation, and right leg numbness.

         On November 6, 2014, Mr. Moyle slipped on a bumper getting off of a truck. On December 1, 2014, he was seen by Dr. Underwood for complaints of lumbosacral pain radiating to the right anterior thigh, bilateral gluteal region, and down his right leg. The results of a January 9, 2015, lumbar MRI were essentially unchanged in appearance to the lumbar spine and multilevel degenerative changes and associated disc herniations seen on the August 22, 2014, lumbar MRI.

         Mr. Moyle testified via deposition on January 30, 2015, that he was injured on November 6, 2014, when he slipped on the bumper of his truck and fell. He experienced immediate back pain. Mr. Moyle sought medical treatment on November 13, 2014. He was assigned work restrictions and prescribed medication. He returned to work on restricted duty. His last day of work was November 20, 2014. He said he was treated by Dr. Underwood in 2013 for back pain and right leg numbness. Dr. Underwood told him his spinal cord was ready to snap.

         Mr. Moyle was treated by Dr. Underwood on April 24, 2015, for complaints of lumbar and cervical pain. Dr. Underwood noted Mr. Moyle had cervical spine pain and had been experiencing persistent left arm numbness and weakness since 2010. Dr. Underwood noted Mr. Moyle had previously received lumbar epidural steroid injections. The injections reportedly only provided two weeks of relief. Additionally, Mr. Moyle had been diagnosed with back pain and spinal stenosis in May of 2013. Dr. Underwood diagnosed lumbar spinal stenosis, lumbar foraminal stenosis, lumbar disc herniation, lumbar radiculopathy, severe lumbar pain, and paresthesia of the right leg. He recommended a decompressive laminotomy of the L3-L4, L4-L5, and right foraminotomy of L3-L4.

         Rebecca Thaxton, M.D., performed a medical records review on May 4, 2015. She recommended obtaining a second opinion regarding the need for surgery as well as additional medical records regarding Mr. Moyle's lumbar spine problem. She noted Mr. Moyle had spine degeneration prior to the work injury as evidenced by the August 22, 2014, lumbar spine MRI. The January 9, 2015, lumbar MRI results were similar to the August 22, 2014, results.

         Joseph Grady, M.D., performed an independent medical evaluation on May 14, 2015. Mr. Moyle's chief complaint was discomfort in his neck and lower back. Dr. Grady noted that Mr. Moyle was seen on October 16, 2014, for a constant aching sensation in his lower back and numbness and needle like sensations in his right leg. He had been prescribed Neurontin, Tramadol, and Lyrica. Mr. Moyle understood that he needed surgery for his back prior to the date of injury. Dr. Grady diagnosed cervical myofascial sprain superimposed on previous fusion from C4 to C7 and resolved lumbar sprain superimposed on pre-existing multilevel degenerative spondylosis. He noted Mr. Moyle had a longstanding history of symptoms related to his neck and lower back with numerous imaging studies and invasive procedures being done in those areas in the past. In his opinion, Mr. Moyle had reached maximum medical improvement for the neck sprain and lumbar sprain. The surgery recommended by Dr. Underwood was not related to the compensable conditions. It would address the diffuse structural abnormalities found on imaging studies prior to the work injury.

         Ruthanne Watkins, M.D., completed an attending physician report on May 18, 2015, requesting that spinal stenosis, sciatica, and cervicalgia be added as compensable diagnoses. She noted Mr. Moyle had been prescribed Flexeril, Naproxen, and Neurontin. She also noted that Mr. Moyle was temporarily and totally disabled from November 6, 2014, through November 1, 2015, based on her April 20, 2015, examination of him.

         Mr. Moyle was seen by Russell Biundo, M.D., on May 27, 2015, for a follow-up for lumbosacral stenosis. Dr. Biundo noted it was difficult for him to return to work as he had a lot of back pain. Dr. Biundo noted Mr. Moyle had received an epidural injection in the past which provided temporary relief. He completed an attending physician's report noting an accepted diagnosis of cervical fusion and requesting an additional diagnosis of lumbar stenosis. Dr. Biundo opined Mr. Moyle was temporarily and totally disabled from May 27, 2015, through August 27, 2015.

         On June 1, 2015, the claims administrator denied a request for temporary total disability benefits from Dr. Watkins as the attending physician's report she submitted could not be accepted because no medical documents had been received from Dr. Watkins and disability could not be certified for periods ...

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