Workers’ Compensation Judge Denies Employer’s Termination Petition
Ryan Zavodnick | February 19, 2016 | Workers' Compensation
The attorneys at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC recently received a favorable decision from a Philadelphia workers’ compensation judge on behalf of our client. We were retained by our client, a 49 year old licensed practical nurse employed by a local health system, after her employer filed a petition to terminate her workers’ compensation benefits.
At the time we were retained, our client was not missing any time from work and there were no wage loss benefits to pursue, meaning that there also was no counsel fee to pursue. However, recognizing that the injured worker was in need of representation, we agreed to represent her with the knowledge that we would likely be paid very little, if anything, for our time. A description of the case and the judge’s decision follows.
49 Year Old LPN Sustains Meniscus Tear At Work
As noted above, our client was 49 years old at the time of her work-related injury, which resulted in a torn meniscus. She was referred by her employer to an orthopedic surgeon on the employer’s list of panel physicians.
After consultation with the orthopedic surgeon and several visits, along with physical therapy, our client underwent surgery to repair the torn meniscus. She missed some time from work following her first surgery, but was ultimately able to return to her pre-injury position as a licensed practical nurse. She continued working for roughly one year, but her ongoing knee pain limited her ability to perform her job. Our client had worked for her employer for 12 years prior to her injury.
The Employer Filed A Termination Petition Based On An IME Report
While our client was still working, her employer requested that she attend an Independent Medical Examination (IME) with an orthopedic surgeon hired by the employer for the sole purpose of providing the employer with an “expert opinion.” Not surprisingly, the IME doctor opined that our client had fully recovered from her acknowledged work injury and was in need of no further treatment.
Rather than leaving its 12 year employee alone while she continued to work in a productive manner, the employer elected to file a petition to terminate our client’s workers’ compensation benefits. In the interim, following the IME appointment our client had gone back to see her treating orthopedic surgeon, who told her that she needed total knee replacement surgery. Our client underwent total knee replacement surgery after her employer had filed the termination petition.
Remarkably, she only missed three months from work following her surgery, returning once again to her position as a licensed practical nurse. Again, rather than withdrawing its previously filed petition, the employer pressed forward, despite the fact that its own panel physician was relating the total knee replacement to our client’s work injury.
The Workers’ Compensation Judge Rejects The Opinion Of The IME Doctor
After both parties presented the testimony of their medical experts and our client testified, the workers’ compensation judge issued a decision denying the employer’s termination petition. The judge found that our client’s medical expert was more credible than the IME doctor, in large part because of the fact that, unlike the IME doctor, our expert actually treated our client!
The judge also granted the review petition that our firm had filed, expanding the description of our client’s accepted injuries to include an aggravation of pre-existing degenerative arthritis. This is significant because it means that if our client has additional problems with her knee in the future we should be able to obtain workers’ compensation benefits for her.