CATHY D. COX, Claimant Below, Petitioner
LESLIE BROTHERS EQUIPMENT COMPANY, Employer Below, Respondent
Appeal No. 2051818) (Claim No. 2016024916)
Cathy D. Cox, by Reginald D. Henry, her attorney, appeals the
decision of the West Virginia Workers' Compensation Board
of Review. Leslie Brothers Equipment Company, by Timothy
Huffman, its attorney, filed a timely response.
issue on appeal is the rejection of the claim. On April 14,
2016, the claims administrator rejected Ms. Cox's claim
for carpal tunnel syndrome. The Office of Judges affirmed the
claims administrator in its February 10, 2017, Order. The
Order was affirmed by the Board of Review on July 27, 2017.
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
Cox worked as a janitor for more than twelve years for Leslie
Brothers Equipment Company. She alleged that she developed
bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome as the result of her work
duties. She stopped working on May 15, 2015, due to the pain
in her hands and wrists.
Vaught, M.D., examined Ms. Cox on November 12, 2015. Ms. Cox
told him her symptoms began around November of 2014 when she
began to experience intense numbness and aching pain in her
hands and arms. Dr. Vaught performed EMG/NCS testing which
revealed bilateral median mononeuropathy at the wrists
consistent with carpal tunnel syndrome. Dr. Vaught diagnosed
bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome and referred Ms. Cox for a
Tabit, D.O., examined Ms. Cox for the first time on January
7, 2016. He noted more pain in the left hand than the right
hand. He diagnosed bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. As
conservative treatment had failed, he recommended bilateral
carpal tunnel releases. He performed the left carpal tunnel
release on January 12, 2016, and the right carpal tunnel
release on February 26, 2016.
completed her section of the Employees' and
Physician's Report of Injury on March 8, 2016. She stated
she sustained a repetitive use injury to her wrists and hands
as a result of her work as a janitor and that she was
required to use her wrists and hands repetitively while
sweeping, mopping, and lifting heavy buckets of water. Dr.
Tabit completed the physician section of the Employees'
and Physician's Report of Injury on March 10, 2016. He
listed the diagnosis as bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome and
indicated the condition was the result of an occupational
disease. He also noted that Ms. Cox was released from his
care on March 8, 2016. He did not believe she would be able
to return to regular duty work as she was limited to very
little heavy lifting, pushing, or pulling.
March 28, 2016, Bo Kaminsky, the general manager at Leslie
Brothers Equipment Company, completed a carpal tunnel
syndrome questionnaire, which indicated Ms. Cox worked in
housekeeping and her job duties included vacuuming, mopping,
dusting, and cleaning. Ms. Cox completed a carpal tunnel
syndrome questionnaire of her own on April 5, 2016. She
indicated the physical duties of her job were repetitive and
included sweeping, mopping, and lifting heavy buckets of
Thaxton, M.D., performed a medical records review on April
11, 2016, in which she opined that the bilateral carpal
tunnel syndrome was not work-related. She noted that there
was no "medical narrative" detailing the
relationship between the carpal tunnel syndrome and Ms.
Cox's job. Additionally, neither Dr. Tabit nor Dr. Vaught
explicitly related the carpal tunnel syndrome to any specific
job duties. Dr. Thaxton found that in his March 8, 2016,
medical record, Dr. Tabit noted Ms. Cox brought him Social
Security disability and workers' compensation paperwork
to complete, and he opined Ms. Cox could continue to work a
light duty job. Based on Dr. Thaxton's report, the claims
administrator denied the claim on April 14, 2016.
14, 2016, Ms. Cox testified via deposition that she had to
quit working due to the pain in her wrists and arms. During
her employment with Leslie Equipment Company, she worked
forty hours per week and was required to do all of the
cleaning, including mopping, running the vacuum, and dusting.
She cleaned two different buildings and she occasionally used
a buffing machine. Her hands first started hurting about
seven years ago, when they turned ice cold and started to
throb. Post-surgery, her hands did not hurt as much but she
had no feeling in her fingers and no strength in her hands.
Bailey, M.D., performed an independent medical evaluation on
October 20, 2016. She reviewed the medical records of Drs.
Vaught and Tabit, the medical records review completed by Dr.
Thaxton, the carpal tunnel questionnaires, and Ms. Cox's
deposition transcript. During the evaluation, Ms. Cox's
main complaints were that she dropped things and that she had
a lack of strength as well as weakness in her hands. She also
experienced numbness in both hands. Dr. Bailey diagnosed
bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, which was improved but not
fully resolved. She noted Ms. Cox's job tasks were highly
variable. In Dr. Bailey's opinion, Ms. Cox did not have
occupational duties that were highly repetitious, forceful,
or awkward that would place her at risk for the development
of carpal tunnel syndrome. Ms. Cox's work required her to
use her hands and wrists as well as the larger muscles of the
upper extremities, shoulders, abdomen, and lower back. The
use of the other body parts provided time for the smaller
muscle groups in the hands and wrists to recover.
February 10, 2017, the Office of Judges affirmed the claims
administrator's rejection of the claim. It found that the
evidence clearly showed Ms. Cox had developed bilateral
carpal tunnel syndrome. But, Dr. Tabit's medical records
showed no causal opinion regarding the carpal tunnel syndrome
and Ms. Cox's work. Additionally, there is no evidence
Dr. Tabit was familiar with Ms. Cox's work duties. The
Office of Judges determined that the only physician on record
that adequately considered Ms. Cox's work duties was Dr.
Bailey, as she was able to review the carpal tunnel syndrome
questionnaires and Ms. Cox's testimony regarding her job
duties. The Office of Judges found that Ms. Cox's job
duties were not highly repetitious, highly forceful, or
extremely awkward. The evidence showed Ms. Cox was
overweight, which is a confounding condition in the
development of carpal tunnel syndrome. Therefore, the Office
of Judges found Ms. Cox had not sustained her burden of proof
in showing that the carpal tunnel syndrome was related to her
Board of Review adopted the findings of fact and conclusions
of law of the Office of Judges and affirmed the Office of
Judges' Order on July 27, 2017. After review, we agree
with the Board of Review. Ms. Cox's work as a janitor did
not require her to perform repetitive job duties that lead to
the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. The reasoning of