A worker with a previous depression showed that her workplace injury worsened her mental health, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court upheld a decision released Thursday.
In Pocono Medical Center v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board the court unanimously upheld a worker's request for review of her workers' compensation claims and rejected her employer's offer to terminate her workers' compensation.
In 2009, Sharon Springer, a phlebotomist at Pocono Medical Center in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, was attacked by a patient, resulting in a pinched nerve in the spinal cord. Her claim for workers' compensation was approved. In 2015, the Medical Center filed a modification petition to terminate her benefits. Springer claimed that the injury had aggravated her pre-existing state of major depressive disorder, and stated that her injury made her depressed and anxious and led to a hospital stay for suicidal thoughts. She also presented evidence that she had not seen a psychiatrist until her work injury, and the psychiatrist testified that she developed depression as a result of chronic pain from the work injury. The medical center's psychiatrist said Springer had been diagnosed with depression and anxiety before her injury.
The work compensation judge granted continued benefits to the phlebotomist, and considered that the treatment she received the year before her injury was mainly for migraines. headache and noted that psychiatrists admitted that a serious injury can aggravate existing depression.
The Commonwealth Court upheld the decision and held that the judge did not misuse his discretion when he allowed Springer to extend the description of her work injury and ongoing workers' compensation.
The court accepted as true the psychiatrist's testimony that Springer's "debilitating depression" was caused by an occupational injury because she had been "fully functional" and able to work before the injury and that the pain from the occupational injury drove the depression.
The court also noted that the medical center's psychiatrists recognized that depression can be exacerbated by a tragic event, and that an individual's inability to do things she could do before the injury "can lead to depression and anxiety."