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Appeal From: LABOR AND INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS COMMISSION.
David Whipple, Independence, MO Counsel, for Appellant.
Kimberley Fournier, Kansas City, MO Counsel, for Respondent.
Cara Harris, Kansas City, MO Counsel, for Respondent.
Before: James Edward Welsh, P.J., Anthony Rex Gabbert, J., and Robert M. Clayton, III, Sp. J. All concur.
James Edward Welsh, Presiding Judge
Ronald Lawrence appeals the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission's decision denying him workers' compensation benefits for a permanent total disability from the Second Injury Fund. We reverse the judgment and remand to the Commission.
Lawrence began working for Southwestern Bell Telephone, LP (" Employer" ) in November 1973 as a lineman. In 1984, he began working as a cable-splicer and continued in that position for twenty-two years. Lawrence's job involved a lot of bending, twisting, and stooping, and his job duties required him to carry up to 150 pounds of gear.
On May 11, 2005, Lawrence injured his lower back at work when he slipped and fell while helping to place a cable on a rack. Following the injury, Lawrence experienced a sudden increase in back pain and pain shooting into his legs. He sought treatment from Dr. William Miller, who treated the injury with prescription pain medication and physical therapy.
Lawrence filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits against both the Employer and the Second Injury Fund (" the Fund" ) for the May 11, 2005 work injury (the " primary injury" ). In his claim against the Fund, Lawrence alleged the following preexisting disabilities: back surgery, right rotator cuff surgery, left rotator cuff surgery, heart attack, and right knee surgery.
Lawrence and his Employer eventually entered into a settlement agreement under which Employer agreed to pay Lawrence $21,243 for a permanent partial disability representing approximately 15% of the body as a whole due to the primary injury. On April 10, 2013, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) approved that settlement agreement.
In August 2013, the same ALJ held a hearing on Lawrence's claim against the Second Injury Fund. The issues to be resolved were: (1) whether Lawrence sustained an injury by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment; and (2) the nature and extent of disability, whether permanent partial disability or
permanent total disability, and the Second Injury's Fund's liability therefor. The latter issue is the subject of this appeal.
At the hearing, Lawrence testified about the primary work injury and his preexisting disabilities, and he introduced his medical records into evidence. Lawrence also presented the deposition and report of Dr. P. Brent Koprivica, an occupational medicine specialist, and the deposition and report of Michael Dreiling, a specialist in vocational rehabilitation. Neither the Employer nor the Fund had Lawrence evaluated or presented any expert testimony.
Lawrence testified about his limitations on the job prior to and after the 2005 injury. He stated that, as a result of his 2005 injury, he has had a marked increase in back pain and has had to self-limit his activities. He stated, for example, that he must lie down during the day at times to relieve his back symptoms. Lawrence further testified that, based upon all of his various physical conditions, he is unable to work.
Lawrence's medical records showed that Dr. Miller had diagnosed him with severe low back pain and acute radiculopathy. Following an MRI, Dr. Miller further diagnosed Lawrence with degenerative disc disease and lumbar disc disease with disc bulging. Dr. Miller indicated that Lawrence's squatting at work caused further bulging of the disc that led ...