Appeal No. 2052550) (Claim No. 2016019539)
Marc Schofield, by Reginald D. Henry, his attorney, appeals
the decision of the West Virginia Workers' Compensation
Board of Review. Spartan Mining Company, by Sean Harter, its
attorney, filed a timely response.
issue on appeal is the amount of permanent partial disability
impairment in this claim. On October 20, 2016, the claims
administrator granted Mr. Schofield a 4% permanent partial
disability award. The Workers' Compensation Office of
Judges reversed the claims administrator's decision on
January 17, 2018, and granted an additional 4% permanent
partial disability award, for a total of 8% permanent partial
disability in the claim. This appeal arises from the Board of
Review's Order dated July 6, 2018, in which the Board
reversed the January 17, 2018, Order of the Office of Judges.
The Board of Review vacated the decision of the Office of
Judges and reinstated the October 20, 2016, Order of the
Court has carefully reviewed the records, written arguments,
and appendices contained in the briefs, and the case is
mature for consideration. 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
Schofield is a miner who was employed by Spartan Mining
Company (Alpha Natural Resources) as a shuttle car operator.
On January 27, 2016, he was moving cable at the Rock Fork
Mine and became off balance and fell to his right side while
trying to catch himself. He heard a "pop" in his
left knee and immediately suffered great pain. His supervisor
advised him to sit for a period of time. After his shift was
over, he filled out an accident report. He eventually sought
treatment at Appalachian Regional Hospital in Beckley, West
Virginia. X-rays were negative for fractures but positive for
Schofield was referred to Barry A. Levin, M.D., an orthopedic
surgeon, for further examination of his knee. On February 4,
2016, Dr. Levin's examination of Mr. Schofield revealed
mild effusion and pain with flexion and extension. Dr. Levin
noted that an x-ray of the left knee revealed mild arthritis.
Dr. Levin ordered an MRI of the left knee, which was
conducted on February 27, 2016. The MRI revealed tears of the
anterior cruciate ligament and posterior horn of the lateral
meniscus. On April 8, 2016, Dr. Levin performed the
arthroscopic knee surgery to debride the anterior cruciate
loose fibers and the lateral meniscus as well as fibrillated
cartilage under the patella. The post-operative diagnoses
were tears of the anterior cruciate ligmanet, tear of the
lateral meniscus, and patellofemoral arthrosis.
29, 2016, Dr. Levin referred Mr. Schofield for physical
therapy with BodyWorks in Pineville, West Virginia. BodyWorks
developed a therapy plan to reach Mr. Schofield's highest
physical and functional level within a six week time frame. A
progress note dated July 13, 2016, indicated that Mr.
Schofield's left knee strength rated 3, with a range
of motion three to 116 degrees with pain at end ranges. At
the time of the examination, Mr. Schofield presented with
antalgic gait and reported instability of the left knee.
Schofield returned to Dr. Levin for a follow-up evaluation on
August 18, 2016. Dr. Levin noted that there was some
tenderness in the left knee. However, Dr. Levin listed the
left knee range of motion as being normal and his assessment
was listed as much improved. Mr. Schofield was ordered to
continue with his exercise program and to return for another
evaluation in two months. Dr. Levin was of the opinion that
Mr. Schofield was unable to work because his work requires
excessive kneeling in low coal.
Schofield was examined for an independent medical evaluation
with Prasadarao B. Mukkamala, M.D. In his report dated
September 28, 2016, Dr. Mukkamala diagnosed Mr. Schofield
with sprain of the left knee, status post arthroscopic
debridement of the anterior cruciate ligament and lateral
meniscus. Dr. Mukkamala concluded that Mr. Schofield had
reached his maximum medical improvement. Using Table 41 of
the American Medical Associations Guides to the
Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (4th ed. 1993)
("AMA Guides"), Dr. Mukkamala found 4%
whole person impairment for Mr. Schofield's mild
limitation of motion at the left knee. Examination of the
lower extremities revealed that at the left knee, extension
was full and flexion was limited to 105 degrees. Dr.
Mukkamala noted that, except for the left knee, range of
motion was good in both lower extremities.
Order dated October 20, 2016, the claims administrator
granted Mr. Schofield a 4% permanent partial disability
award. The claims administrator based its award upon the
September 28, 2016, assessment by Dr. Mukkamala. Mr.
Schofield protested the claims administrator's decision.
Schofield was examined by Robert B. Walker, M.D., for an
independent medical examination on April 21, 2017. In his
June 26, 2017, report, Dr. Walker reported that he performed
a range of motion examination of Mr. Schofield's left
knee. The knee flexed to 90 degrees and extended to negative
fourteen degrees. For comparison purposes, the right knee
flexed to 120 degrees and extended to negative four degrees.
In his final assessment, Dr. Walker incorrectly noted that he
was providing an impairment rating for Mr. Schofield's
right knee. Using Table 41 of the AMA Guides, Dr.
Walker opined that Mr. Schofield's extension to negative
fourteen degrees, less than neutral, would warrant an 8%
whole person impairment.
Employer submitted an independent medical evaluation report
by Syam B. Stoll, M.D., dated September 20, 2017. Dr. Stoll
examined Mr. Schofield and noted that he had sustained a
cruciate ligament tear, secondary to crawling on his knees
and this had resulted in osteoarthritis of the kneecap. Range
of motion was measured to be 115 degrees of flexion and
positive ten degrees of extension. For the right knee, Dr.
Stoll measured flexion to 120 degrees and extension to be
eleven degrees, with no appreciable ligament laxity. His
assessment was left knee sprain status post arthroscopy with
anterior cruciate ligament and lateral meniscus debridement.
After finding that Mr. Schofield had reached his maximum
medical improvement, Dr. Stoll utilized Table 41 of the
AMA's Guides, and found that the left knee
flexion to 115 degrees and extension to positive ten degrees
did not yield any impairment. However, Dr. Stoll used Table
64 of the AMA's Guides for the partial lateral
meniscectomy to determine 1% whole person impairment and 3%
whole person impairment for cruciate or collateral ligament
laxity in the mild category. Combining the two values, Dr.
Stoll opined that Mr. Schofield has 4% whole person
impairment for his injury. Dr. Stoll also addressed the
assessments of Drs. Mukkamala and Walker. Dr. Stoll commented
that Dr. Walker's 8% impairment rating was not valid or
reliable because Dr. Walker's finding of a lack of
fourteen degrees to full extension of the left knee was not
supported by a review of the medical records. Dr. Stoll
stated that Drs. Mukkamala and Levin, as well as the physical
therapist at BodyWorks, all found greater range of motion of
the left knee than Dr. Walker reported.
Order dated January 17, 2018, the Office of Judges reversed
the claims administrator's 4% award and granted Mr.
Schofield an 8% permanent partial disability award based upon
the opinion of Dr. Walker. In its findings, the Office of
Judges stated that all three reports for impairment in the
record are quite different. The Office of Judges found the
reports of Drs. Mukkamala and Walker to be credible for the
assessment of Mr. Schofield's impairment. The Office of
Judges discounted Dr. Stoll's report because he used a
diagnosis-based impairment rating system instead of the range
of motion assessment. Because the reports from Drs. Mukkamala
and Walker were found to be equally reliable, the Office of
Judges applied West Virginia Code § 23-4-1g (2003) and
adopted Dr. Walker's rating to resolve the dispute in
favor of Mr. Schofield. Spartan Mining Company appealed to
the Board of Review.
Board of Review determined that the substantial rights of the
Employer had been prejudiced and reversed the decision of the
Office of Judges. The Board found that Drs. Mukkamala and
Stoll set forth objective findings and made specific Table
citations from the AMA Guides. Their reports were
deemed reliable and credible, and the Board of Review
concluded that Mr. Schofield is entitled to a 4% permanent
partial disability award for his left knee injury.
Accordingly, the Board of Review entered an Order dated July
6, 2018, reversing the decision of the Office of Judges, and
the January 17, 2018, Order was ...