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Hanson v. State Compensation Insurance Fund

Court of Workers Compensation of Montana

June 2, 1995

SANDRA LEE HANSON Petitioner
v.
STATE COMPENSATION INSURANCE FUND Respondent.

          ORDER ON APPEAL

          Mike McCarter JUDGE

         Summary: Claimant appeals from determination by the Department of Labor and Industry that she is not suffering from an occupational disease arising out of her employment as a personal care attendant.

         Held: DOL determination affirmed where claimant has offered no evidence connecting her mild carpal tunnel condition to her employment as a personal care attendant. Indeed, the unrefuted opinion of the OD panel physician was that claimant does not have an occupational disease and was not placed at risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome by her occupational activities as a personal care attendant.

         Topics:

Benefits: Occupational Diseases. Where unrefuted opinion of the OD panel physician was that claimant does not have an occupational disease and was not placed at risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome by her occupational activities as a personal care attendant, and claimant offered no other evidence linking her mild carpal tunnel condition to her employment, WCC affirms DOL order that claimant is not suffering from an occupational disease.
Causation: Medical Condition. Where unrefuted opinion of the OD panel physician was that claimant does not have an occupational disease and was not placed at risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome by her occupational activities as a personal care attendant, and claimant offered no other evidence linking her mild carpal tunnel condition to her employment, WCC affirms DOL order that claimant is not suffering from an occupational disease.
Occupational Disease: Causation. Where unrefuted opinion of the OD panel physician was that claimant does not have an occupational disease and was not placed at risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome by her occupational activities as a personal care attendant, and claimant offered no other evidence linking her mild carpal tunnel condition to her employment, WCC affirms DOL order that claimant is not suffering from an occupational disease.
Medical Conditions (By Specific Condition): Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Where unrefuted opinion of the OD panel physician was that claimant does not have an occupational disease and was not placed at risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome by her occupational activities as a personal care attendant, and claimant offered no other evidence linking her mild carpal tunnel condition to her employment, WCC affirms DOL order that claimant is not suffering from an occupational disease.

         This is an appeal from a finding by the Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) that appellant, Sandra Lee Hanson (claimant), "is not suffering from an occupational disease arising out of her employment with West Mont Home Management."

         Procedural Background

         Claimant suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). She filed a claim against West Mont Home Management (West Mont), alleging that her CTS is an occupational disease and that West Mont's insurer, the State Compensation Insurance Fund (State Fund), is liable for her condition. It is not clear when claimant filed her claim for occupational disease benefits. The claim is not part of the DLI record and the hearing examiner's findings indicate only that it was "timely filed." (Finding 3.)

         Claimant was referred to Dr. Ronald M. Peterson, a member of the Occupational Disease Panel, for evaluation. Dr. Peterson examined claimant on April 27, 1993. He confirmed that she suffers from CTS but concluded:

I do not feel the patient is suffering from an occupational disease. I see no evidence in her description of her job nor in the job description that would place her at risk for development of such a disease due to repetitive motion or prolonged stress on her upper extremities.

(See Speed Letter Dated 6/29/93 to Cathy Brown Kummer with Medical Attachments (Dli File).)

         Based on Dr. Peterson's report the DLI made a preliminary finding that claimant is not entitled to occupational disease benefits. (Id.) Claimant did not request an examination by a second panel member. Instead, she requested a hearing.

         A hearing was held on October 28, 1993, before a DLI hearing examiner. Claimant and her sister testified. The only medical information submitted was in the form of exhibits. Dr. Peterson's report, medical notes of Dr. Connie O'Connor (claimant's treating physician) and an EMG and nerve conduction report by Dr. Charles Anderson were admitted into evidence.

         On February 22, 1994, the hearing examiner issued his Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order. He determined that claimant is not entitled ...


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