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Warboys v. Employers Insurance of Wausau

Court of Workers Compensation of Montana

September 22, 1994

ROSALIE WARBOYS Petitioner
v.
EMPLOYERS INSURANCE OF WAUSAU Respondent/Insurer for ST. REGIS CORPORATION Employer.

          FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND JUDGMENT

          Mike McCarter Judge

         The trial in this matter was held on October 14, 1993, in the Flathead County Justice Center, Kalispell, Montana. Petitioner, Rosalie Warboys (claimant), was present and represented by Mr. Allan M. McGarvey. Respondent, Employers Insurance of Wausau (Wausau), was represented by Mr. Michael C. Prezeau.

         Claimant testified on her own behalf. The parties each offered testimony from a vocational consultant; claimant called Mr. Dan Schara and Wausau called Ms. Terri Roach. In addition, the testimony of Albert Joern, M.D. and William Riddel, D.C. was presented by deposition.

         Seven exhibits, including claimant's medical records, were offered into evidence. Claimant objected to pages 48-51, 56-62, and 101-112 of the medical records, identified as Exhibit 1, on the ground that the records in question relate to treatment for conditions which are not related to the claim in question and are therefore irrelevant. Having had to read the records to determine their relevancy, the Court now determines that the records should be admitted but finds that they have minimal relevance to the resolution of the issues raised by the petition.

         Having considered the Pretrial Order, the testimony presented at trial and by deposition, the demeanor of the witnesses, the exhibits, and the pleadings of the parties, the Court makes the following:

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         1. At the time of trial the claimant was forty-seven years old.

         2. Claimant was employed in the plywood department of the Champion (formerly St. Regis) Mill in Libby, Montana for approximately twenty years. She began work at Champion in 1972 and worked there in various positions until May 31, 1992.

         3. When she was first employed by Champion, claimant was assigned to the labor pool and performed heavy labor. Among the jobs she held was one on the "dry belt," which involved continuous, very heavy work. The dry belt job requires the worker to pull pieces of wood six feet long and fourteen to twenty-seven inches wide off a conveyor belt and stack them.

         4. After approximately four years in the labor pool, claimant successfully bid on a plugger operator job. Physically, that job is one of the easiest ones at Champion. The job entails sliding a single sheet of veneer onto a table and putting in plugs where necessary, then sliding the veneer off the table.

         5.On March 13, 1985, the claimant was assigned to the dry chain for a day. While twisting to lift a load of wood she felt a "pop" in her neck. She thereafter experienced a headache and tingling in her hand.

         6.Claimant timely reported her injury and filed a claim for compensation.

         7. At the time of claimant's March 13, 1985 injury, St. Regis was insured by Wausau, which accepted liability for the claim.

         8. Following her injury claimant was treated by Dr. Stephen Hufman, a physician in Libby, Montana. Dr. Hufman diagnosed claimant's condition as "[c]ompression neuropathy secondary to working on the belt." (Ex. 1 at 1.) Dr. Hufman prescribed medication.

         9. Claimant missed work, off and on, for approximately one month. When claimant was released to return to work, she returned to her normal position as a plugger operator, although she was restricted by Dr. Hufman from working on the "belt." It is unclear from Dr. Hufman's records whether this restriction was intended to be temporary or permanent. (Ex. 1 at 1-7.)

         10. Although the claimant sought little medical care during the two years immediately following her return to work, she continued to suffer symptoms related to her neck, primarily soreness and stiffness of the neck, along with headaches. She was seen in the emergency room on April 25, 1986, a year after her return to work, for a headache and pain in her shoulder and neck. Her condition was diagnosed as a muscle tension headache (Exhibit 1 at 12) and may have been unrelated to her 1985 injury. However, commencing in May 1987 claimant began chiropractic treatment for neck stiffness and pain. (Ex. 1 at 13; Riddel Dep. at 4.)

         11.Since 1987 claimant has received numerous chiropractic treatments from Dr. William J. Riddel. While some of the treatments were related to a subsequent low-back injury, a majority of ...


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