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The Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) decided Bosquez v. Super America and York Risk Services Group, No. WC20-6382 on May 26, 2021 and affirmed the denial of ongoing benefits.
The employee sustained a head injury on July 28, 2018. The employer and insurer eventually discontinued benefits, and the employee alleged that her injury resulted in ongoing vision and psychological changes.
At hearing, the employer and insurer offered testimony from two medical experts, Dr. Bushara, a neurologist, and Dr. Gratzer, a psychiatrist. These doctors evaluated the employee’s complex medical history prior to her work injury and compared her pre-existing conditions to her post-injury symptoms. Dr. Bushara concluded that the employee sustained a temporary head injury that resolved within six weeks or so without the need for ongoing benefits or treatment. Dr. Gratzer concluded that the employee’s injury did not substantially aggravate or accelerate her pre-existing psychological conditions. The employee presented conflicting medical evidence in support of her ongoing claims, including mental health and ophthalmology opinions.
The Compensation Judge carefully weighed the medical opinions and evidence before determining that any work injury had resolved by early December 2018. As such, the Compensation Judge denied ongoing benefits and claims related to any alleged conditions, including those related to mental health or vision.
On appeal, the employee argued that the Compensation Judge misunderstood the issues and that the Compensation Judge failed to consider whether the work injury aggravated her pre-existing conditions, especially when considering the factors outlined in McClellan v. Up North Plastics, slip op. (W.C.C.A. Oct. 18, 1994). The McClellan factors include: severity and extent of treatment of the pre-existing condition, severity of the incident and subsequent restrictions including disability and medical treatment resulting from that incident, the extent of the employee’s relevant work and leisurely activities, and medical opinions. The WCCA, however, has previously held that using the McClellan factors is not mandatory. Further, the WCCA determined that the Compensation Judge properly addressed the employee’s claims. The judge’s memorandum showed that he compared the employee’s pre-existing history and post-injury symptoms and weighed the experts’ medical opinions in detail. Therefore, the WCCA held that substantial evidence supported the Compensation Judge’s findings that the employee’s head injury resolved as of December 2018.
The employee also argued that the judge erred by ignoring an uncontested medical opinion regarding her vision changes. However, the WCCA followed precedent stating that although a medical opinion cannot be ignored, that medical opinion is not necessarily conclusive or binding. Here, the WCCA agreed that even though the employer and insurer did not present a specific vision expert, the Compensation Judge was entitled to credit Dr. Bushara’s well-founded opinion that the head injury had resolved by December 2018. As such, any claims for additional vision symptoms beyond that time could be denied.