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Weymiller v. Lockheed Idaho Technologies

Supreme Court of Idaho

July 11, 2017

PENNY ANN WEYMILLER, Claimant-Appellant,
v.
LOCKHEED IDAHO TECHNOLOGIES, Employer, and EMPLOYERS INSURANCE OF WAUSAU, Surety, Respondents.

2017 Opinion No. 87

         Appeal from the Industrial Commission of the State of Idaho.

         The decision of the Industrial Commission is reversed.

          Penny Weymiller, Idaho Falls, pro se appellant.

          Law Office of Kent Day, Meridian, attorneys for respondents. Matthew J. Vook argued.

          JONES, Justice.

         I. Nature of the Case

         Penny Weymiller ("Weymiller"), a former employee of Lockheed Idaho Technologies ("Lockheed"), appeals the Idaho Industrial Commission's (the "Commission") order that she was not entitled to additional medical care in relation to her bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome ("CTS").

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         In March of 1991, Weymiller began to develop pain in her wrists. On July 28, 1994, Weymiller filed a claim with Employers Insurance of Wausau ("Surety") asserting that she had developed CTS due to data entry involved in her employment. Surety denied the claim. On March 1, 2000, Weymiller, then an employee for Lockheed, filed another claim. On May 30, 2000, Surety reevaluated and reversed its previous denial thereby accepting that Weymiller's CTS was related to her work and originally started in 1991. Weymiller was referred to Dr. R. Timothy Thurman, M.D. ("Dr. Thurman"), a hand surgeon in Idaho Falls. Thereafter, Weymiller received medical treatment for CTS including wrist braces, pain medication, and steroid injections. On June 6, 2007, Dr. Thurman performed surgery on Weymiller's left wrist. On September 20, 2007, Weymiller was released to return to work without restrictions. Weymiller did not seek another appointment with Dr. Thurman until May of 2012. She explained why she stopped seeking appointments with Dr. Thurman as follows:

Well, when I go see Dr. Thurman, there is nothing he can do except - it's not like he can treat me, except for prescription medicine and wrist braces. So the idea that I'm going to take sick leave or vacation time or whatever I need to do and spend time and expense - your [Surety's] expense going back to see Dr. Thurman to say that you have bilateral carpal tunnel. I don't need anybody to tell me that. I know that.

         Surety investigated Weymiller's claim because it had been nearly five years since Weymiller had been evaluated by Dr. Thurman. Surety characterized the five year time period as a "gap in treatment." Surety authorized an appointment with Dr. Thurman, but does not appear to have authorized any other treatment at that time, including medication or wrist braces. On October 25, 2012, Dr. Thurman examined Weymiller. On January 13, 2013, Dr. Thurman conducted a follow-up appointment. He diagnosed Weymiller with intermittent carpal tunnel-type symptoms and wrote her a prescription for wrist braces. On August 22, 2013, Weymiller filed a worker's compensation complaint against Surety. Weymiller's complaint was assigned to Referee LaDawn Marsters, who conducted a hearing in Idaho Falls on June 29, 2015. Weymiller represented herself pro se. The parties presented oral and documentary evidence at the hearing. Following the hearing, the matter was reassigned to Referee John C. Hummel.

         On February 23, 2016, Referee Hummel issued his Findings of Fact, Conclusion of Law, and Recommendation. He concluded that Weymiller had not proven that she was entitled to further medical care because she had not proven, to a reasonable degree of medical probability, a causal connection between her ongoing condition and her occupational exposure. Referee Hummel reasoned as follows:

Claimant's treating physician, Dr. Thurman, has not given an opinion, to a degree of reasonable medical probability, that Claimant's recurrent CTS symptoms are causally related to her workplace exposure that began in 1991. The Referee has scrutinized the medical records of Dr. Thurman's treatment of Claimant. The records reflect that he consistently diagnosed Claimant with CTS from 2000 to 2014. Nowhere in any of those records did Dr. Thurman state a medical opinion that causally related her CTS symptoms to her accepted occupational exposure. Merely because Dr. ...

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