Appeal No. 2052610) (Claim No. 2017020542).
James Davidson II, by Counsel John Shumate Jr., appeals the
decision of the West Virginia Workers' Compensation Board
of Review ("Board of Review"). Blue Ridge
Crematory, by Counsel Jeffrey Brannon, filed a timely
issue on appeal is the compensability of the claim for
bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. On March 2, 2017, the
claims administrator rejected Mr. Davidson's claim. The
Workers' Compensation Office of Judges ("Office of
Judges") reversed the claims administrator's Order
on February 13, 2018, and ordered the claim compensable for
bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. This appeal arises from the
Board of Review's Final Order dated August 28, 2018, in
which the Board reversed and vacated the February 13, 2018,
Decision of the Office of Judges. The Board concluded that
the preponderance of the evidence fails to demonstrate that
Mr. Davidson's employment duties had any relationship to
his carpal tunnel syndrome.
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
Davidson is employed as an apprentice funeral director and
embalmer with Blue Ridge Crematory, and he has worked for the
employer since January 18, 2016. As part of his duties, Mr.
Davidson performs suturing and dressing tasks, lifting and
removing bodies, completing paperwork and logging data into a
computer. He began experiencing numbness and pain in his
hands in February 2017. On February 7, 2017, Mr. Davidson
underwent an EMG/NCS performed by Glen Goldfarb, M.D. Dr.
Goldfarb's testing revealed a prolonged left median
sensory latency across the wrist and a mild left carpal
tunnel syndrome was diagnosed.
Davidson first sought medical treatment with Syed A. Zahir,
M.D. Mr. Davidson reported pain and numbness in both hands,
particularly his right hand. He was noted as weighing 241
pounds, standing 6'2" in height. Dr. Zahir, in a
report dated February 9, 2017, diagnosed him with bilateral
carpal tunnel syndrome and recommended wrist braces at night
and then surgery. Dr. Zahir based his opinion upon the
EMG/NCS testing conducted by Dr. Goldfarb. Dr. Zahir signed
the physician's section of the Employees' and
Physicians' Report of Occupational Injury on February 14,
2017. In the form, Mr. Davidson reported that his condition
occurred as a result of continuous suturing, writing, typing,
and repetitive movements. Dr. Zahir checked the box
indicating an occupational disease and indicated that he has
not advised Mr. Davidson to remain off work for more than
March 1, 2017, Dr. Zahir requested authorization for carpal
tunnel syndrome surgery for Mr. Davidson's right hand. In
an Order dated March 2, 2017, the claims administrator denied
the claim for bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome on the basis
that Mr. Davidson's carpal tunnel syndrome is not
causally related to his employment. Mr. Davidson protested
the claims administrator's decision.
Davidson completed a carpal tunnel syndrome questionnaire on
April 22, 2017, in which he indicated that he has been
working for Blue Ridge Funeral Home since January 2016. He
previously was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, Addison's
disease, and low testosterone. He stated that he routinely
performs his work duties in awkward positions, and he does
not have a history of prior work-related accidents.
Davidson was referred for an independent medical evaluation
with Prasadarao B. Mukkamala, M.D. In a report dated July 28,
2017, Dr. Mukkamala diagnosed Mr. Davidson with bilateral
carpal tunnel syndrome. However, in his professional opinion,
Dr. Mukkamala concluded that Mr. Davidson's carpal tunnel
syndrome is not causally related to his occupational
activities, because Mr. Davidson did not report work
activities that involve the degree of repetition and force
that is required to cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Dr.
Mukkamala found no occupational risk factors for development
of carpal tunnel syndrome. Dr. Mukkamala also found that Mr.
Davidson's increased body mass index, as well as his
hypothyroidism, are important risk factors for the
development of the disease. It was Dr. Mukkamala's
opinion that the carpal tunnel syndrome is not causally
related to his occupational activities.
August 10, 2017, an evidentiary hearing was held in Beckley,
West Virginia, in which Mr. Davidson's testimony was
taken. He testified that within a two-week period, he worked
ten days on and four days off of work. He testified that he
spent four hours, out of an eight hour day, embalming bodies.
Three of those hours were spent suturing the incisions which
involved intricate work with his hands and wrists. The other
four hours of his workday involved carrying caskets, serving
as a pallbearer, typing reports, and doing paperwork. He
testified that he began having problems with his hands and
wrists in January 2017. Mr. Davidson also testified that his
father had been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and
underwent surgery. He stated that he did not have problems
with his hands and wrists prior to his job.
Final Decision dated February 13, 2018, the Office of Judges
reversed the claims administrator's prior ruling of March
2, 2017, and held Mr. Davidson's claim compensable for
bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. The Office of Judges found
that the type of work performed by Mr. Davidson met the type
of work setting noted in West Virginia Code of State Rules
§ 85-20-41.5 (2006) that can contribute to carpal tunnel
syndrome. The Office of Judges reasoned that there was no
medical evidence to support Dr. Mukkamala's theories that
nonoccupational-risk factors caused Mr. Davidson's carpal
tunnel syndrome. Blue Ridge Crematory appealed to the Board
Board of Review entered an Order dated August 28, 2018,
reversing the decision of the Office of Judges and denying
Mr. Davidson's claim for carpal tunnel syndrome. The
Board of Review found that the Office of Judges' analysis
and conclusions were clearly wrong in view of the reliable,
probative and substantial evidence on the whole record. The
Board of Review relied upon Dr. Mukkamala's opinion and
concluded that Mr. Davidson's employment activities did
not fall into the high-risk categories for the development of
carpal tunnel syndrome. As a result, the Board found that the
preponderance of the evidence fails to demonstrate that Mr.
Davidson's employment duties had any relationship to his
carpal tunnel syndrome. The claims administrator's order
of March 2, 2017, which rejected the claim, was reinstated.
review, we agree with the decision of Board of Review. In his
independent medical evaluation dated July 28, 2017, Dr.
Mukkamala found nonoccupational-risk factors for the
development of carpal tunnel syndrome in the form of
excessive weight and hypothyroidism. The Board of Review
noted that West Virginia Code of State Rules §
85-20-41.4 (2006) includes hypothyroidism and obesity as
abnormalities and conditions that can precipitate carpal
tunnel syndrome symptoms. The Board found that Mr.
Davidson's job duties do not fall in the high-risk
categories for the development of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Given the evidence of record, the Board did not err in
concluding that Mr. Davidson's employment duties had no
relationship to his carpal tunnel syndrome.
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 so clearly wrong
based upon the evidentiary record that even when all
inferences are resolved in favor of the Board of Review's
findings, reasoning and conclusions, there ...