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Mantia v. Missouri Department of Transportation

Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc

September 12, 2017

LINDA MANTIA, Respondent,
v.
MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, Appellant, and TREASURER OF MISSOURI, AS CUSTODIAN OF THE SECOND INJURY FUND, Respondent.

         APPEAL FROM THE LABOR AND INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS COMMISSION

          George W. Draper III, Judge.

         The Missouri Department of Transportation (hereinafter, "Employer") appeals from the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission's (hereinafter, "the Commission") decision awarding Linda Mantia (hereinafter, "Employee") workers' compensation benefits representing 50 percent permanent partial disability of the body as a whole and the right to future medical care for her work-related mental injury. Employer claims the Commission misapplied the law and its award was not supported by sufficient, competent, and substantial evidence.

         This Court has jurisdiction under article V, section 10, of the Missouri Constitution, because it granted transfer after opinion by the court of appeals. The Commission's decision is vacated and the cause is remanded because the Commission failed to apply the applicable and clear statutory standards.

         Procedural and Factual Background

         Employee worked for Employer for more than twenty years. Employee became a crew leader and, eventually, a supervisor. Her duties included providing traffic control and assistance at motor vehicle accident scenes on Missouri highways. Early in her career, Employee observed accident scenes as often as four times per week. In the 1990s, motorist assist workers responded to the less serious accidents; yet, Employee and her crew responded to the more serious accidents, which often included fatalities.

         In February 2008, Employee's primary care physician diagnosed her with depression and referred her to Dr. Asif Habib (hereinafter, "Dr. Habib"). Employee reported conflicting symptoms to Dr. Habib, and he prescribed her several medications. Employee stopped seeing him because she believed he was more interested in prescribing medications than in treating her.

         Employee then began counseling with Dr. Timothy Jovick (hereinafter, "Dr. Jovick") from August 2008 until early 2013. Employee talked with Dr. Jovick about her experiences and psychiatric symptoms. Employee described her belief that her motivation and self-image as a supervisor had declined, she became angry at motorists who sped in construction zones, and she "stopped doing things." Dr. Jovick encouraged Employee to drive by the areas she sought to avoid. Employee stopped seeing Dr. Jovick because she felt speaking with him only caused her to relive her traumatic experiences.

         In October 2008, Employee filed a workers' compensation claim seeking benefits for mental injuries and disability arising from her work. Employee presented her claims in a hearing before an administrative law judge (hereinafter, "ALJ"). Both Employee and Employer presented medical expert testimony.

         Employee presented Dr. Jovick as her expert. Dr. Jovick testified he relied only upon the medical history Employee provided and did not review any other medical records. Dr. Jovick concluded Employee suffered work-related depression and her condition represented major depressive disorder. Dr. Jovick also believed Employee suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by her work. However, Dr. Jovick conceded that a "more comprehensive assessment" of Employee, including an independent psychological and neuropsychological evaluation, may be warranted for purposes of adjudicating workers' compensation matters.

         Employer presented Dr. Wayne Stillings (hereinafter, "Dr. Stillings") as its expert. Dr. Stillings testified he treated Employer's workers, Illinois Department of Transportation workers, and workers from private companies who work on highway scenes. Dr. Stillings explained it is not unusual or extraordinary for highway workers to witness human tragedy at highway scenes. Dr. Stillings concluded Employee suffered a depressive disorder and the prevailing cause was her employment. Dr. Stillings opined Employee's work-related depressive disorder resulted in permanent partial disability.

         The ALJ denied Employee's claim for compensation because she failed to prove she suffered extraordinary and unusual work-related stress as required by section 287.120.8.[1] The ALJ specifically noted Employee's testimony that other supervisors witnessed the same type of accident scenes as she did and Dr. Stillings' testimony that it was not extraordinary or unusual for highway employees to view human tragedy when responding to an accident. Employee sought review by the Commission.

         The Commission reversed the ALJ's decision. The Commission awarded Employee benefits based on 50 percent permanent partial disability as a result of her mental injury and ordered Employer to pay for future medical care to treat her mental injury. Employer appeals.

         Standard ...


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