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Wilkins v. Piramal Glass USA, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

March 6, 2018


         Appeal from the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission

          Philip M. Hess, Judge.


         Piramal Glass USA, Inc. and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Company of America (together "Employer") appeal the final award of the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission (the "Commission") awarding Travis Wilkins ("Claimant") temporary total disability benefits, permanent partial disability benefits, and compensation for past medical expenses. Employer argues that the Commission erred in: 1) determining that Claimant sustained a compensable injury; 2) determining that Claimant's development and treatment for his staph infection was medically related to his work-related injury; and 3) admitting medical bills into evidence not properly identified by Claimant. Finding no error, we affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Claimant began working for Employer as a machinist in March 2013. Claimant's job duties at the time of his injury included working on Employer's bottle-forming machines and pulling mechanisms. On December 6, 2014, Claimant was on a catwalk in Employer's factory changing a spool valve. To change the valve, he had to enter an awkward squatting position. When Claimant stood up he felt a painful pop or tear in the back of his leg.

         The pain caused Claimant to sit down for several minutes. He eventually stood, but he continued to experience pain for the next few days. On December 9, 2014, he met with Employer's nurse, Jenger Hickman, who advised him to seek treatment for his leg pain.

         Claimant went to Parkland Health Center that same day. The doctor who examined Claimant recommended that he follow-up with a workers' compensation doctor. Ms. Hickman then sent Claimant to Dr. Richard Hulsey, who served as Claimant's Employer authorized treating physician. Dr. Hulsey first saw Claimant on December 11, 2014. Dr. Hulsey observed tenderness over the back of Claimant's left calf muscle and ordered an MRI of Claimant's leg. After reviewing the MRI, Dr. Hulsey diagnosed Claimant with a tear to his left calf muscle. He also noted there was a hematoma in Claimant's left calf. Claimant was given anti- inflammatories and pain medication, and sent to physical therapy at Farmington Sports and Rehabilitation.

         After Claimant's first physical therapy appointment on December 23, 2014, the pain in his leg intensified and his calf swelled. He returned to Parkland Health Center on December 24, 2014. On December 25, 2014, Claimant was evaluated at Missouri Baptist Hospital. Tests revealed that Claimant's white blood cell count was high, indicating an infection. An MRI also demonstrated he still had a hematoma in his left calf. An aspiration was performed on the hematoma, which revealed that Claimant's leg was infected with staph.

         On December 30, 2014, Dr. Hulsey saw Claimant in the hospital. He performed an incision and drainage of Claimant's hematoma. Claimant followed up with an infectious disease specialist, who recommended oral antibiotics.

         Claimant was released from the hospital on January 2, 2015, and remained off work until February 4, 2015. Dr. Hulsey recommended that Claimant work only in a sit-down position beginning February 5, 2015. Claimant continued physical therapy, and on March 5, 2015, Dr. Hulsey examined Claimant and determined that he was at maximum medical improvement.

         On May 4, 2015, Dr. Dwight Woiteshek performed an independent medical examination on Claimant. He observed that Claimant experienced pain and tenderness during deep palpation of Claimant's left calf. He noted a ten percent decrease in the range of motion of Claimant's knee, and atrophy in Claimant's thigh and calf muscles. He opined that Claimant's work-related injury was the prevailing factor in the initial injury to the left calf muscle, the hematoma, and the subsequent staph infection. Dr. Woiteshek also opined that Claimant' surgery and treatments were reasonable and necessary to cure the effects of his work-related injury. Dr. Woiteshek calculated Claimant's overall disability to be thirty-five percent permanent partial disability of his lower extremity rated at the 160 week level.

         On June 4, 2015, Claimant was seen by Dr. Michael Burns at the request of Employer. Dr. Burns opined that Claimant suffered a calf muscle strain and hematoma while working on December 6, 2014. He opined that the subsequent infection was due to a combination of Claimant's diabetes and a sore on his ankle which Claimant suffered on December 4, 2014-not from the calf muscle tear he sustained at work. Dr. Burns opined that Claimant had a five percent partial disability rating in is lower leg.

         On April 2016, a hearing was held before the administrative law judge (ALJ) to determine whether Claimant was entitled to a final award. Claimant testified he still experienced a dull pain in the back of his calf when walking up inclines or squatting. He also testified the pain limited his ability to hunt and climb stairs. He testified the pain sometimes bothered him at work, and he occasionally took ibuprofen or Tylenol to manage the pain. He testified Employer transferred him to a less strenuous position, which had come with a small pay decrease.

         Claimant also stated he had cellulitis around a month-and-a-half before he tore his calf muscle. He acknowledged having a sore on his ankle prior to his staph infection, but testified that the sore healed before his injury on December 6, 2014.

         Ms. Hickman also testified. She testified that she observed a sore on Claimant's ankle on December 4, 2014, but ...

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