State News : Delaware

NWCDN is a network of law firms dedicated to protecting employers in workers’ compensation claims.

NWCDN Members regularly post articles and summary judgements in workers’ compensations law in your state.  

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Claimant was involved in a work-related 9/24/20 motor vehicle accident resulting in injuries to his ribs, bilateral wrists, pelvis and right foot. Claimant had previously undergone two unrelated lumbar spine surgeries involving fusions, first at L4-5 and most recently at L3-4. After this work accident, the claimant underwent two lumbar spinal fusions, performed in February 2021 and May 2021, culminating in a combined lumbar fusion from T10-L5. The claimant filed a Petition to Determine Additional Compensation Due seeking acknowledgement of a low back injury, including payment of the surgeries, and recurrence of total disability. A Board Hearing was held on 12/8/23 at which time the Board appropriately denied claimant’s Petition, ruling the low back injury was not causally related to the work accident and claimant did not sustain a work-related recurrence of total disability.

The Board opined it found “most interesting” the “timeline and chronology of events and emergence of low back issues … in the context of [Claimant’s] preexisting condition.” The crucial facts included the claimant’s prior back injury, the claimant’s prior low back surgeries in 2013, and 6 months before the accident in 2020, as well as pre-accident CT scan images. The claimant’s lumbar spine was fused, with a “cage” inserted into his spinal column in 2013 and again in early 2020. CT scans from before the work accident revealed the surgical cage had migrated beyond the interior cortex of his spine before the work accident even occurred.

Claimant argued that his surgical hardware had failed because of the work accident, which created the need for the final two lumbar spine surgeries. Drs. Piccioni and Rushton testified for the Employer, stating that immediately after the car accident, the claimant identified no low back complaints during his nine-day stay in the hospital. The doctors agreed that if this car accident caused the hardware to fail, then the claimant would have felt similar or even more pain compared to his other factures. The doctors agreed the pre-accident CT scans showed the cage migrating already, and the “wheels were already in motion” for the claimant to need additional back surgery. Post-accident X-Rays were also compared to the pre-accident films, which clearly showed the surgical cage, implanted months prior to his work accident, had migrated but was stable after the trauma of the car accident. Finally, claimant’s surgical hardware failed again, this time between the third and fourth surgeries. If it could fail then with no trauma, then it could have failed previously even without the work accident, contrary to the opinions of claimant’s experts.

The Board agreed that there is no evidence that the work-related trauma accelerated or impacted the claimant’s pre-existing low back condition. The Board issued a Decision finding the low back injury was not causally related to this work accident but was an ongoing issue the claimant had had for many years pre-dating the accident. Finally, because claimant’s doctors linked disability to the low back, the Board found claimant did not sustain a work-related recurrence, and thus the Petition was denied outright.

Should you have any questions regarding this Decision, please contact Nicholas Bittner or any other attorney in our Workers’ Compensation Department.

Young v. IG Burton & Company, Inc., IAB Hrg. No. 1510414 (Dec. 20, 2023)