Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Par Electrical and Old Republic Insurance Co. v. Labor Commission

Court of Appeals of Utah

September 8, 2017

Par Electrical and Old Republic Insurance Co., Petitioners,
v.
Labor Commission and Joseph Ball, Respondents.

         Original Proceeding in this Court

          Brad J. Miller and Andres Hermosillo, Attorneys for Petitioners

          Addison D. Larreau and W. Scott Lythgoe, Attorneys for Respondent Joseph Ball

          Judge Jill M. Pohlman authored this Opinion, in which Judges Gregory K. Orme and Kate A. Toomey concurred.

          POHLMAN, JUDGE.

         ¶1 Par Electrical and its insurance carrier, Old Republic Insurance Co., (collectively, Par) seek judicial review of the Utah Labor Commission's affirmance of an administrative law judge's order awarding permanent total disability compensation to Joseph Ball under the Workers' Compensation Act. We decline to disturb the Commission's decision.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         ¶2 Ball worked for Par as a journeyman lineman servicing powerlines and electrical transformers. His duties required him to climb telephone poles wearing a tool belt that weighed 45 pounds on average and to manipulate into place transformers weighing approximately 2, 500 pounds. In December 2006, Ball was repairing a transformer on an electric pole. To make the repair, the powerline had to remain live to allow Ball to transfer power to another transformer without interrupting electrical service. When Ball climbed the pole, he came in contact with live wires and deliberately fell back to break free of the electricity. Ball struck a shed on his way down and found himself hanging upside down inside it.

         ¶3 Ball was taken to the hospital where he was treated for multiple injuries, including non-displaced fractures in his thoracic vertebrae from T3 to T8 and an endplate fracture of the T5 vertebra. Ball was discharged from the hospital a few days after the accident, but he continued to receive treatment for his work injuries.

         ¶4 In March 2007, Dr. Chung, one of Ball's treating physicians, opined that the accident medically caused a compression fracture of the T5 vertebra and assessed Ball with a 6% whole-person impairment rating due to his work injuries. In April 2008, Dr. Chung recorded that Ball was having difficulty performing strenuous work, and in October 2009, Dr. Chung prescribed Ball medication for pain caused by the thoracic spine compression fracture. Dr. Chung also placed permanent work restrictions on Ball, limiting him from lifting more than "50 pounds, or 25 pounds repetitively, " and stating that Ball should not repetitively bend or twist his torso and should change position every 30 minutes.

         ¶5 In October 2010, Dr. Adams, another treating physician, assessed Ball's physical capacity and opined that Ball was limited by his constant back pain, headaches, and depression stemming from the pain. Dr. Adams indicated that Ball could lift up to 10 pounds continuously, and up to 20 pounds frequently, but that he should not lift more than 20 pounds or carry any weight. Dr. Adams also reported that Ball's pain continuously interfered with his ability to concentrate on even simple work tasks.

         ¶6 Ball attempted to return to work after the accident, taking jobs with other companies, but was unable to perform assigned duties due to continuing back pain. In one job, Ball's pain flared so much that he had difficulty standing and his employment was terminated. In another, he worked as a foreman, supervising the work of others, but the job evolved to require heavy labor, and Ball could not perform the work because of his back pain. Ball's attempts to find other work were unsuccessful.

         ¶7 In September 2011, Ball filed a claim for permanent total disability compensation. Par's medical consultant, Dr. Woodward, evaluated Ball and opined that the work accident medically caused the transverse-process fractures in his thoracic spine, but he expressed uncertainty about whether the accident caused the T5 compression fracture. Dr. Woodward further concluded that Ball had no permanent work restrictions based, in part, on his understanding that Ball worked after the accident.

         ¶8 Following an evidentiary hearing, the administrative law judge (the ALJ) entered an interim order, concluding that the accident was the legal cause of Ball's injury but referring the medical issues, including medical cause, to a medical panel for evaluation. The ALJ directed the medical panel to answer three sets of questions, including inquiries regarding Ball's permanent work restrictions. In posing her questions, the ALJ instructed as follows:

If you discover additional facts which are not contrary to the facts in the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law contained in my Interim Order, and you use them in your examination and evaluation, it will be necessary to include them in your report and explain how the additional facts affected your analysis and conclusions.

         ¶9 A panel of two doctors-a neurologist and an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in upper extremities-examined Ball in June 2014 and reviewed his medical history with him. The panel also reviewed the ALJ's Findings of Fact and Interim Order, imaging studies, and 278 pages of Ball's medical records from various providers, including Dr. Woodward's evaluation. The panel opined that Ball's thoracic spine problems were medically caused by the work accident but that his cervical and lumbar spine problems were not. The panel opined that Ball's "lifting restrictions should be changed [from those set by Dr. Chung in 2009] to a light category namely lifting 20 [pounds] occasionally and 10 [pounds] frequently." In support of its opinion, the medical panel explained that it suspected that the 2009 work restrictions "were given on the basis of subjective pain reports" and that "[i]t is reasonable to give [Ball] the benefit of the doubt that he has chronic mid-back pain due to the T5 compression fracture ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.