Appeal No. 2052821) (Claim No. 2018012804)
HealthSouth Corporation, by Jane Ann Pancake and Jeffrey B.
Brannon, its attorneys, appeals the decision of the West
Virginia Workers' Compensation Board of Review. Pamela J.
Cramer, by Robert L. Stultz, her attorney, filed a timely
issue on appeal is compensability. The claims administrator
rejected the claim on December 14, 2017. The Office of Judges
reversed the decision in its March 23, 2018, Order and held
the claim compensable for lumbosacral ligament sprain. The
Order was affirmed by the Board of Review on August 17, 2018.
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
Cramer, an environmental service aide, alleges that she was
injured in the course of her employment on November 23, 2017.
The Employees' and Physicians' Report of Injury
indicates Ms. Cramer injured her left lower back and hip
while emptying trash from a patient's bathroom. The
physician's section was completed at WVU Urgent Care and
indicates Ms. Cramer sustained an injury that aggravated a
prior injury/disease. The diagnoses were listed as
sacrococcygeal disorders and sciatica. A Workers'
Compensation Injury/Illness Investigation Report completed
the day after the injury indicates Ms. Cramer injured her
left lower back and hip while pulling on a trash bag. Her
supervisor stated that the accident findings were consistent
with her report of the events.
Cramer sought treatment from Sara Farjo, D.O., on November
26, 2017. She reported that she felt a sharp pain in her left
hip while pulling on a heavy trash bag. She stated that the
pain radiated into her foot and has been constant since that
time. Dr. Farjo diagnosed sciatica, sacroiliac joint
dysfunction, or piriformis syndrome. She referred Ms. Cramer
for an orthopedic evaluation. A physical therapy note the
following day indicates Ms. Cramer reported pain over the
weekend after trying to lift ice and water at work. She was
diagnosed with low back pain and sciatica.
November 28, 2017, treatment note by Anna Allen, M.D.,
indicates Ms. Cramer reported a history of occasional lower
back pain on the left side for the past two years. She had
experienced a flair-up earlier in the month. Dr. Allen
diagnosed lumbosacral ligament sprain and left-sided
sciatica. She characterized the injury as "an acute
injury in the context of a chronic back problem." On
December 12, 2017, Ms. Cramer reported that physical therapy
had helped her muscle spasms but she still had left leg pain.
Her MRI showed a central and left central disc herniation
with cephalic extrusion at L4-5 and a herniated disc
compressing the L4 nerve root significantly. By February 1,
2018, Ms. Cramer had shown significant improvement with
physical therapy and traction.
Cramer testified in a deposition on February 12, 2018, that
she pulled on a heavy trash bag at work on November 23, 2017,
and felt immediate pain in her back. She returned to work on
January 4, 2018, and is now working full time on modified
duty. Ms. Cramer stated that she still has occasional left
leg pain and numbness. She admitted she had one back injury
prior to the compensable injury at issue. The injury occurred
two and a half years prior, and she did not seek medical
treatment. Prior to the compensable injury, she had no back
pain. She was treated for sciatica with physical therapy on
November 7, 2017. In a February 22, 2018, expedited hearing
before the Office of Judges, counsel for the employer
contended that Ms. Cramer failed to provide information
regarding back injuries in 2002, 2007, and 2009.
claims administrator rejected the claim on December 14, 2017.
The Office of Judges reversed the decision and held the claim
compensable for lumbosacral ligament sprain in its March 23,
2018, Order. It found that though Ms. Cramer may have had
prior lower back injuries and was participating in physical
therapy up to the day before the injury occurred, she was
still capable of performing all of her work duties prior to
the injury at issue. The Office of Judges further determined
that the most reliable and comprehensive reports of record
are those of Dr. Allen, Ms. Cramer's treating physician.
Dr. Allen opined that Ms. Cramer sustained "an acute
injury in the context of a chronic back problem." The
Office of Judges found nothing in the workers'
compensation statute which prevents a person with a
preexisting condition from sustaining a new injury. The
Office of Judges also found no medical evidence conflicting
with Dr. Allen's finding that Ms. Cramer sustained an
acute injury on November 23, 2016. The Office of Judges
determined that though Ms. Cramer's MRI showed a
herniated disc, there is no evidence that the condition is
the result of her compensable injury, and Dr. Allen gave no
opinion on the origin of the herniated disc. The Office of
Judges therefore concluded that Ms. Cramer sustained a
compensable injury in the course of her employment that
resulted in a lumbosacral ligament sprain. The Board of
Review adopted the findings of fact and conclusions of law of
the Office of Judges and affirmed its Order on August 17,
review, we agree with the reasoning and conclusions of the
Office of Judges as affirmed by the Board of Review. The only
physician of record to offer an opinion on the causality of
Ms. Cramer's symptoms is Dr. Allen. Dr. Allen opined that
though she has a chronic back condition, Ms. Cramer sustained
a lumbosacral ligament sprain on top of her preexisting
problems. The employer presented no medical opinion
disagreeing with Dr. Allen's findings.
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 evidentiary
record. Therefore, the decision of the Board of Review is
CONCURRED IN BY: Chief Justice Elizabeth D. Walker Justice
Margaret L. Workman Justice Tim Armstead Justice Evan ...