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Casualty v. State Compensation Insurance Fund

Court of Workers Compensation of Montana

September 16, 1994

AETNA CASUALTY & SURETY CO., Petitioner,
v.
STATE COMPENSATION INSURANCE FUND, Defendant, IN RE: MARLA SMITH, Claimant.

          FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND JUDGMENT

          Mike McCarter, Judge

         The trial in this matter was held on March 1, 1994, in Kalispell, Montana. Petitioner, Aetna Casualty & Insurance Co. (Aetna) was represented by Mr. Charles E. McNeil. Respondent, State Compensation Insurance Fund (State Fund), was represented by Mr. Charles G. Adams. Claimant, Marla Smith, was present and represented by Mr. Darrell S. Worm.

         Claimant testified. Exhibits 1 through 6 were admitted into evidence by stipulation of the parties. The parties also stipulated that the depositions of claimant, Dr. Steven M. Martini, Dr. James H. Mahnke and Dr. John Hilleboe may be considered part of the record.

         Having considered the pretrial order, the testimony presented at trial, the demeanor and credibility of the witness, the depositions and exhibits, and the arguments of the parties, the Court makes the following:

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         1. Claimant is 40 years old, married, and lives in Columbia Falls.

         2. Claimant began working for Crop Hail Management in Kalispell, Montana, in 1987. While at Crop Hail Management, she worked as an accounts receivable clerk, a data entry clerk, and an executive secretary.

         3. Prior to her injury, claimant was intermittently treated for low-back pain. (Ex. 1-1).

         4. On February 28, 1989, claimant injured her low-back while attempting to lift a box at work.

         5. At the time of claimant's injury, Crop Hail Management was insured by the State Fund, which accepted liability for claimant's injury.

         6. Following her February 1989 injury, the claimant initially sought treatment from Dr. Louise Swanberg, who first saw claimant on April 27, 1987. Thereafter, Dr. John Hilleboe, an orthopedic surgeon, treated claimant commencing on May 24, 1989.

         7. A May 12, 1989 MRI of claimant's back disclosed a herniated nucleus pulposus at the L4-5 disc and a degenerated disc at L5-S1. The MRI finding was consistent with claimant's complaints of pain in her buttock and down her left leg. Dr. Hilleboe specifically attributed claimant's symptoms to L5 nerve root involvement.

         8. On July 14, 1989 Dr. Hilleboe performed a laminectomy and disc excision at the L4-5 level on claimant. He also explored the L5-S1 disc, which appeared normal.

         9. Dr. Hilleboe released claimant to return to work in October of 1989. She returned to work at Crop Hail Management in November of 1989.

         10. The State Fund paid claimant temporary total disability benefits at the weekly rate of $114.20 from July 22, 1989 to October 2, 1989. The State Fund also paid an impairment award based upon a ...


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