Attorneys Logren & Hiner Prevail at WCCA
A procedurally complex case, the claim involved hearings held before a total of three distinct compensation judges, inevitably raising questions of res judicata. Two previous compensation judges had originally ruled that the Employee was temporarily and totally disabled for a significant period of time after the work injury. However, those judges were never asked to rule on permanent total disability, nor did they ever rule on that issue.
Subsequently, in July of 2012, the Employee underwent an FCE, received permanent restrictions and claimed PTD. The Employer and Insurer denied this claim, arguing that the Employee's ongoing total disability was not due to the work injury, but rather due to conditions such as obesity and deconditioning. Offering opinions of Dr. Zeller, who opined that the work-injury is a diagnosis that typically resolves in 9-12 weeks, the Employer and Insurer asserted that by the time of the FCE, the work-injury had certainly resolved, and that any ongoing disability was due to non-work related conditions such as inactivity, smoking and obesity. The compensation judge at the hearing on PTD agreed with Dr. Zeller's reasoning.
Furthermore, the compensation judge concluded that the Employee's disability was not permanent, given that she could still explore a job search and be employable in her local labor market.
The Employee appealed to the WCCA, in part, based on the theory of res judicata regarding ongoing disability. The WCCA concluded that substantial evidence supported the compensation judge's denial of PTD and affirmed the decision in favor of the Employer and Insurer.