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Burns v. Plum Creek Manufacturing

Court of Workers Compensation of Montana

March 18, 1994

LaVERN F. BURNS Petitioner



         The trial in this matter was held on October 13, 1993, in Kalispell, Montana. Petitioner, LaVern Burns (claimant), was present and represented by Mr. Dean K. Knapton. Respondent, Plum Creek Manufacturing (Plum Creek), was represented by Mr. Kelly M. Wills. Claimant was sworn and testified on his own behalf. Phil Wierz, Dorothy Burns and Pam Burns were also sworn and testified. Testimony of Gregory Luna, M.D., Joseph Knapp, M.D. and Charles Swannack, M.D. was presented by deposition. Exhibit Nos. 1 and 2 were admitted into evidence without objection.

         Having considered the testimony, the demeanor and credibility of the witnesses appearing at trial, the exhibits and depositions, the Court makes the following:


         1. Claimant is 30 years old.

         2. In January 1985, claimant suffered a right subclavian vein thrombosis following a skiing accident and was hospitalized twice during January and February 1985 for treatment of his condition.

         3. In elementary terms a "thrombosis" is a blood clot which obstructs a blood vessel. "Subclavian" indicates that claimant's thrombosis was in a vein located beneath his clavicle. According to medical testimony, the thrombosis probably involved an injury to the intima of the vein. The intima is the innermost lining of a blood vessel. An injury to the intima may be followed by deposits of fibrin, leukocytes and erythrocytes, in other words, a blood clot.

         4. Claimant went to work for Plum Creek in 1987. He passed a physical examination and began working on the plywood green chain. The green chain was heavy work.

         5. In June 1991, the claimant began working on the "spreaders." Claimant was one of four individuals working as a team to assemble plywood sheets in layer-cake fashion. Pieces of wood called "core" are fed by one worker through a roller which applies glue to both sides of a piece and ejects it. Another worker (a "core layer") catches each ejected piece and places it on top of a larger thin sheet of veneer until the sheet is covered by core. Two other workers ("sheet turners") then place another large sheet of veneer on top of the newly laid core, and the process starts over again. When the plywood sheet reaches the proper thickness it is removed and a new one is started. At the time of claimant's alleged injury the core layer and sheet turners rotated their positions every two hours so that no worker laid core for more than two hours at a time.

         6.Claimant worked Friday, March 13, 1992, and was off work the weekend of March 14 and 15, 1992. According to claimant and his wife, claimant did nothing strenuous over the weekend.

         7.On March 16, 1992, the claimant worked the swing shift, starting work at 3:30 p.m. That evening the spreader crew laid down core pieces which are called "27s." The 27s are approximately 27 inches wide by 4 feet long and are heavier than other core pieces typically used in making plywood. Claimant had laid 27s on previous occasions.

         8.Towards the end of claimant's shift, at approximately 11:30 p.m., he experienced a tingling sensation in his right hand and stopped work for a short time. He told his supervisor that his arm was bothering him and returned to laying core and finishing his shift. His supervisor confirms that claimant told him that his arm was bothering him. Claimant, however, did not report an injury or incident at that time.

         9.Claimant complained of aching and numbness when he arrived home after work. By the following day his arm was swollen and painful. He sought medical care and was hospitalized. It is undisputed that he was suffering a recurrence of subclavian vein thrombosis.

         10.Claimant relates the recurrence of his thrombosis ("rethrombosis") to his catching 27s on March 16. He testified on direct examination that he had fallen behind in core laying on March 16 and was trying to catch up. He further testified that if you are not watching, pieces of core can hit you in the chest or face, and that he was "hit a few times that night that way." However, during cross-examination, claimant acknowledged that the events at work on March 16 were not unusual and that in his previous deposition testimony he had not identified any specific bumping or traumatic event occurring on March 16th. The following cross-examination occurred:

Q. Okay. Now, your wife testified that you told her you were jarred or jolted somehow.
A. Well, on that job when a piece of core is curved, it comes through the rolls and it comes up at you and you get hit anywhere from the chest to the face. You can get hit with a piece of core if you're not watching it and fast enough to catch it. And I did get hit a few times that night that way.
Q. Well, isn't it true that in your deposition you told us that you didn't get bumped or suffer any trauma?
A. That happens --
Q. Is that what you testified to in your deposition?
A. Yes.
Q. Okay. And it's also true that in your deposition you testified that nothing unusual happen that day.
A. Not to get -- No.
Q. And that it was just a typical workday, nothing out of the ordinary happened?
A. Well, besides catching the 27's.
Q. And you do that regularly?
A. Yes.
Q. Now your testimony is that you got bumped or were struck by something?
A. No.
Q. Is that your testimony now?
A. No, I didn't say I got struck. I said I was catching 27's. When they hit me in the hand, that's when I felt the tingling in my hand.
Q. I don't mean to argue with you, but I thought you just testified you got hit in the chest with the 27's.
A. You do get hit in the chest with the 27. That happens quite regularly.
Q. Did you or didn't you?
A. Yeah, I got hit that ...

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