WILLIAM L. LORANGER Petitioner
MONTANA STATE FUND Respondent/Insurer.
Submitted: December 10, 2019
ORDER GRANTING RESPONDENT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
S. SANDLER JUDGE.
Respondent moves for summary judgment, asserting that
Petitioner's claim for PTD benefits - which is based on
the combined sequalae of three industrial injuries - is
premature because Petitioner has not yet returned to MMI for
his right knee injury following right knee surgery and, based
on Petitioner's attorney's assertions, is not at MMI
for his cervical spine injury. Petitioner has not presented
evidence that he is currently at MMI for his right knee
injury nor that he is still at MMI for his cervical spine
injury, but asserts that this Court can still determine that
he is entitled to PTD benefits. In the alternative,
Petitioner asserts that this Court should hold a trial to
determine whether he is entitled to TTD benefits.
Respondent is entitled to summary judgment because
Petitioner's claim for PTD benefits is premature. This
Court has previously ruled that when a claim for PTD benefits
is based on the sequalae from multiple injuries, the claimant
must be at MMI for each injury before he is eligible for PTD
benefits. Petitioner has not presented sufficient evidence
from which this Court could find that he is currently at MMI
for either his right knee injury or his cervical spine
injury. This Court cannot hold a trial to determine
Petitioner's entitlement to TTD benefits because the
parties have not mediated that issue; therefore, this Court
does not currently have jurisdiction over that dispute.
1 Respondent Montana State Fund (State Fund) moves for
summary judgment, asserting that Petitioner William L.
Loranger's claim for permanent total disability (PTD)
benefits is premature because Loranger is no longer at
maximum medical improvement (MMI) for his right knee injury.
2 Loranger asserts that, even assuming he is not currently at
MMI for his right knee injury, he remains eligible for PTD
benefits. In the alternative, Loranger argues that this Court
should hold a trial to determine whether he is entitled to
temporary total disability (TTD) benefits.
3 This Court held a hearing on December 10, 2019.
4 For the foregoing reasons, this Court grants State
Fund's Motion for Summary Judgment.
5 On August 29, 1987, Loranger suffered a left knee injury
while working for Pintler Outfitters. State Fund accepted
liability for this claim. In 1990, Loranger reached MMI for
his left knee injury.
6 On December 4, 1993, Loranger suffered a right knee injury
while working for Montana Developmental Center. State Fund
accepted liability for this claim. In 1996, Loranger reached
MMI for his right knee injury.
7 On February 5, 2008, Loranger suffered a cervical spine
injury while working for Montana State Prison. State Fund
accepted liability for this claim. On June 9, 2008, Michael
T. Gallagher, MD, determined that Loranger was at MMI for his
cervical spine injury.
8 Loranger retired from his job at the Montana State Prison
on October 30, 2018.
9 Loranger asserts that the pain from his injuries forced him
to retire, and that, at the time of his retirement, he
required additional treatment for his right knee injury and
his cervical spine injury, including surgeries. On October
30, 2018, Loranger's attorney sent a demand letter
stating, in relevant part:
Mr. Loranger has been forced to leave his employment with
Montana State Prison as he can no longer endure the pain in
which to work. As you know, Mr. Loranger has been battling
severe neck pain for many years. His pain has finally gotten
to the point where he cannot tolerate his pain to work. He
has been on sick leave because of the pain for approximately
the last two weeks (and continues to be on sick leave) and
his last day of work is today.
Dr. Blavatsky has requested authorization to perform knee
surgery. Please approve that authorization. He will also
likely require neck surgery in the near future. Please
classify Mr. Loranger as permanently totally disabled for
both conditions and commence payment of total disability
benefits based on his February 5th, 2008 injury
date. If you refuse to authorize his right knee surgery or
payment of total disability benefits, please set forth your
reasons in writing.
10 State Fund asserts that Loranger is not currently entitled
to any wage-loss benefits on the grounds that he voluntarily
retired for reasons unrelated to his injuries, noting that he
did not mention suffering from pain in the letter he sent to
the Montana State Prison notifying it of his decision to
retire. State Fund also notes that Loranger continues to be
self-employed at his business.
11 For Loranger's right knee, Nicholas Blavatsky, MD,
diagnosed, "Osteoarthritis . . . end-stage and
severe." Thus, on March 28, 2019, Loranger underwent a
total knee replacement. Dr. Blavatsky noted that he proceeded
to total knee replacement because conservative treatments had
not improved Loranger's condition:
A 59-year-old male admitted to the surgical service at St.
James on 03/28/2019 for definitive and elective total knee
arthroplasty on the right. The patient failed conservative
measures including anti-inflammatory preparation,
intraarticular injection, activity modifications. X-rays had
demonstrated complete ablation of the medial cartilage space
with significant adaptive changes of the patellar
12 On September 17, 2019, Dr. Blavatsky noted that Loranger
was satisfied with the results of the total knee replacement
and that Loranger had "regained full extension and
adequate and functional flexion." Dr. Blavatsky
instructed Loranger to commence a home exercise program, to
place weight on his knee "as tolerated," and to
return in one year for a ...