Appeal No. 2051328, Claim No. 2015023528
Jimmy Hammonds, by Anne L. Wandling, his attorney, appeals
the decision of the West Virginia Workers' Compensation
Board of Review. Consol of Kentucky, Inc., by James W.
Heslep, its attorney, filed a timely response.
issue on appeal is whether Mr. Hammonds developed carpal
tunnel syndrome in the course of and resulting from his
employment. The claims administrator rejected the claim on
August 19, 2015. The Office of Judges modified and affirmed
the decision in its May 11, 2016, Order. The Order was
affirmed by the Board of Review on October 24, 2016. The
Court has carefully reviewed the records, written arguments,
and appendices contained in the briefs, and the case is
mature for consideration.
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
Hammonds, an electrician, alleges that he developed carpal
tunnel syndrome in the course of and resulting from his
employment. An EMG/NCV taken on October 17, 2012, showed
bilateral severe carpal tunnel syndrome slightly worse on the
right. Mr. Hammonds was in a motor vehicle accident in 2012.
A letter from Allstate Insurance dated August 21, 2013,
requested Mr. Hammonds to submit supporting documents that
his carpal tunnel syndrome is related to his car accident.
The letter stated that there was no injury to Mr.
Hammonds's hands at that time and he needed to submit
supporting documentation if he felt it was related to his
carpal tunnel syndrome.
February 4, 2015, Report of Injury states that Mr. Hammonds
worked as an underground electrician. The injury was listed
as to his hands and arms from twisting and turning wrenches,
pulling and pushing equipment, and lifting chain hoists. Lon
Lafferty, M.D., completed the physician's section and
diagnosed occupational bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. The
date of initial treatment was November 23, 2012. The claims
administrator rejected the claim on August 19, 2015. It
stated that it requested additional information from Dr.
Lafferty that was not received. It also found that the
medical information provided shows the carpal tunnel syndrome
is due to a June of 2012 car accident.
September 9, 2015, treatment note, Dr. Lafferty evaluated Mr.
Hammonds for back pain. Mr. Hammonds reported that he tried
to plug a tire the day before but his hands went numb when he
was pushing on the plug handle. His past medical history
included bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome repair. Dr.
Lafferty said the carpal tunnel syndrome was documented in
his office for two years or so. He related the carpal tunnel
syndrome to a long history of repetitive stress injury to the
Hammonds answered interrogatories on October 5, 2015,
indicating that he had surgery on his elbows and hands at
Kings Daughter's Medical Center. He stated that he has
been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease in his neck and
back. He stopped working on November 23, 2013, due to carpal
tunnel syndrome. He stated that he chews tobacco, has no
hyperthyroidism, and has never been diagnosed with diabetes.
October 12, 2015, treatment note, Dr. Lafferty stated that
Mr. Hammonds continued to have pain, numbness, and weakness
in both hands. His grip strength was decreased bilaterally
and it was painful. Dr. Lafferty related the carpal tunnel
syndrome to his work and a previous motor vehicle accident.
Hammonds testified in a deposition on January 15, 2016, that
as an electrician he worked with wrenches, ratchets, drills,
grinders, and other maintenance tools. The drills and
grinders were vibrating tools. He began experiencing
tingling, numbness and swelling bilaterally in 2009. He was
in a car accident in 2012, with the main injury being to his
neck. He had hand and elbow surgery in November of 2013 and
was taken off of work on November 23, 2013, by Dr. Lafferty.
Mr. Hammonds stated that he writes left handed but is
ambidextrous for other tasks. His symptoms are about the same
in both hands. Surgery initially helped but after healing he
experiences loss of strength, tingling, and numbness. He
noted that he has rotator cuff tears in both shoulders and
previously underwent cubital tunnel release. He stated that
he has no hobbies or activities in which he uses his hands in
a forceful repetitive action. He had high blood pressure in
the past for which he took medication.
Office of Judges modified the claims administrator's
rejection of the claim and rejected the claim on the basis
that the evidence shows the carpal tunnel syndrome is not
work-related on May 11, 2016. It found that Mr. Hammonds has
been treated by Dr. Lafferty for bilateral carpal tunnel
syndrome since November of 2012. He stopped working on
November 23, 2013, when he underwent carpal tunnel syndrome
release on his right hand and cubital tunnel surgery at the
elbow. This predated his application for benefits for an
occupational disease. Dr. Lafferty completed the
physician's section of the Report of Injury and diagnosed
bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. Dr. Lafferty's
treatment notes indicate that Mr. Hammonds has some back
problems in addition to carpal tunnel syndrome. Dr. Lafferty
stated in a September 9, 2015, note that Mr. Hammonds's
bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome was documented in his record
at that office for over the past two years and that the
condition was related to a long history of repetitive stress
injury to the wrists. The Office of Judges noted that Mr.
Hammonds was in a motor vehicle accident in 2012 and injured
his neck. A letter from Allstate Insurance requested that he
submit supporting documents that his carpal tunnel syndrome
was related to the injury. The Office of Judges therefore
determined that he had attempted to have carpal tunnel
syndrome covered through the auto accident.
Office of Judges concluded that the fact that Mr. Hammonds
had bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome surgery well before he
ever filed this claim for carpal tunnel syndrome makes the
timing of his claim somewhat suspect. Further, he never
returned to work after he was off in November of 2013 to have
that surgery. Therefore, he has not had any further work
exposure. Mr. Hammonds now reports that his symptoms are
returning which the Office of Judges determined indicates
that the etiology of the carpal tunnel syndrome is not
work-related. It noted that one would expect the carpal
tunnel syndrome to improve with no further exposure
post-surgery if it was occupationally related. The Board of
Review adopted the findings of fact and conclusions of law of
the OOJ and affirmed its Order on October 24, 2016.
review, we agree with the reasoning and conclusions of the
Office of Judges as affirmed by the Board of Review. The
evidence indicates that Mr. Hammonds has carpal tunnel
syndrome; however, it is not related to his employment
duties. He underwent carpal tunnel syndrome surgery long
before he filed this claim. His symptoms returned after the
surgery despite the lack of occupational exposure. His claim
was correctly rejected.
foregoing reasons, we find that the decision of the Board of
Review is not in clear violation of any constitutional or
statutory provision, nor is it clearly the result of
erroneous conclusions of law, nor is it based upon a material
misstatement or mischaracterization of the ...