A divided West Virginia Supreme Court overturned a grant to a mechanic for a wrist injury he suffered within days of returning to work after surgery.
Charles Rollins worked for Ramaco Resources Inc. as a diesel mechanic. He broke his right wrist in a case at home in January 2018.
Dr. Robert McCleary treated Mr. Rollins suffered an acute distal radial fracture and performed surgery to repair the fracture. X-rays after the operation on February 5, 2018 and March 5, 2018 showed routine healing of the fracture.
At a meeting on April 2, 2018, Mr. Rollins some stiffness and weakness in the wrist, but Dr. McCleary allowed him to return to work without restrictions on April 9, 201
Mr. Rollins returned to full-time work and on April 20, 2018, he felt a pinching sensation in his right wrist when he loosened a bolt on a heavy piece of equipment. He immediately reported an injury to Ramaco and sought treatment.
An X-ray showed a slightly affected fracture at the volar aspect of the distal radial metaphysis.
Staff at Logan Regional Medical Center completed a report indicating Mr. Rollins suffered a professional wrist fracture. It was also indicated that the injury aggravated a previous fracture in the right wrist.
Dr. McCleary saw Mr. Rollins on April 23, 2018. He noted that Mr. Rollins had swelling and tenderness in the distal radius. He diagnosed a right wrist ulnar joint dislocation.
On April 30, 2018, the doctor noted that Mr. Rollins had severe swelling and numbness in the right thumb and showed symptoms consistent with complex regional pain syndrome. X-rays showed a non-displaced distal radius fracture.
Dr. Prasadarao Mukkamala performed an independent medical evaluation in May 2018 and concluded that Mr. Rollins did not incur a new injury.
Dr. Mukkamala said that the X-ray taken on April 30, 2018 showed that the fracture was still visible and healing, so he believed that the previous fracture had not healed completely when the work incident occurred.
A claims administrator for Ramaco's insurance company for workers' compensation Demented Mr. Rollin's claim for benefits related to the wrist injury on April 20, 2018.
Mr. Rollins returned to meet Dr. McCleary on May 7, 2018. The doctor stated that his previous fracture healed completely when he returned to work.
Dr. McCleary stated that during the three months after the injury he saw no signs of complications, and X-rays showed normal healing.
An X-ray expert compared the images of Rollin's right wrist taken on January 5, March 5. and April 20, 2018.
He said that the X-ray on January 5 showed an acute fracture in the distal radius and X-rays from April 20, 2018 showed a slightly affected fracture in the distal radius. He concluded that the radiographs showed a chronic healing distal radial fracture.
Based on that view, another physician in Dr. Mukkamala's assessment that Mr. Rollins did not receive a new injury on April 20, 2018.
The judiciary overturned the damages administrator's refusal of Mr. Rollin's claim. OOJ found that Mr. Rollins suffered a distal radius fracture and right wrist ulnar joint dislocation on April 20, 2018; that Mr. Rollin's description of his injury was consistent and supported by medical evidence; and that the injury was new and separate from his previous right wrist fracture.
OOJ considered that Dr. The opinions of Mukkamala and other doctors were less reliable than Dr. McClearys, since Dr. McCleary had the benefit of treating Rollins for both injuries.
The Board of Review confirmed.
The West Virginia Supreme Court said the OOJ was within its province to consider Mr. Rollins and Dr. McCleary's testimony was credible, but that the OOJ "arbitrarily ignored a significant amount of evidence."
The court said it was "entirely probable" that Mr. Rollins was asymptomatic when he returned to work and that the fracture had not healed on April 20, 2018. McCleary's X-ray reports only proved that the fracture had partially healed, the court said.
McCleary's self-serving, subjective conviction. "
Deviant, Judges John A. Hutchison and Willia m R. Wooton said the West Virginia Code expressly prohibits the court from conducting a" de novo reconsideration of the evidence "in occupational injury cases. "Nevertheless, the majority delves deep into the various X-ray reports, treatment records, and expert reports to reach their definitive conclusion as to which evidence was more credible and of the greater cumulative importance."
Dr. McCleary's perspective that both the attending physician and an experienced orthopedic surgeon had the right to be considered more important than the other physicians, and it was "fully consistent with the actual and clinical evidence," the dissenters added.