ST. PAUL, Minn. (Legal Newsline) – The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that a medical opinion that helped an injured worker vacate a Workers' Compensation settlement lacked foundation.
Eddie Hudson's request for Workers' Compensation from his former employer Trillium Staffing Solutions came after being injured in a truck driving accident while working on his employer's behalf.
On April 16, 2014, the plaintiff was driving through a snowstorm when he hit a patch of ice, and the truck slid across the interstate into the oncoming lane and jack-knifed into a ditch, where he injured his head and lost consciousness.
Despite his injuries, the opinion states he drove a replacement vehicle back to his employer and completed an accident report, after which he visited an emergency room to be treated for a headache, vomiting, neck and back pain, although a CT scan showed no serious abnormalities.
However, after the accident, the plaintiff allegedly began to develop symptoms including: needing a prescription for eye glasses to treat convergence insufficiency; photosensitivity from the head injury; migraines; eyes jumping; inability to read; mood swings; and nausea.
He also underwent occupational therapy for vision rehabilitation, mild degenerative disc disease of the low back and foraminal stenosis of the neck, a probable congenital arachnoid cyst and spondylosis and stenosis and a disc herniation. A psychologist also diagnosed Hudson with an adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood and a traumatic brain disorder, the opinion states.
On Sept. 26, 2014, the plaintiff filed a claim petition alleging a low back and neck injury and a concussion; an underpayment of temporary total disability benefits; reserved temporary partial disability (TPD) and permanent partial disability (PPD); and sought payment of multiple medical bills, rehabilitation, retraining, penalties and out-of-pocket expenses. The claim was then amended to include a psychological injury to the claim.
The defendants countered by retaining their own medical analysis, which cleared the plaintiff to return to work.
On June 15, 2015, both parties settled for $125,000 with the assistance of a mediator. However, in November 2015, a doctor assigned the plaintiff a PPD rating of 75 percent, which would entitle him to an award of $198,750.
In response, Hudson filed a Petition to Vacate the Award on Stipulation. The plaintiff was using the argument that he had no choice but to settle because he needed the money, that the defendants took advantage of his diminished reading capabilities and that he was not represented by legal counsel.
The defendants countered by citing the fact that there was no mutual mistake of fact, newly discovered evidence, fraud, that there was no substantial change in the plaintiff's ability to work and that the 75 percent rating as lacking foundation and a causal connection to his work injury.
Dr. Savina Ghelfi, a psychiatrist, had diagnosed Hudson with severe major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
She had assigned a 75 percent PPD rating to Hudson for the brain injury. Hers was the first opinion that claimed Hudson was unable to work.
The Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals wrongly gave weight to Ghelfi's opinion, the Supreme Court ruled.
The court ruled that Ghelfi's PPD rating lacked foundation because it never indicated what facts formed the basis of her opinion or how she calculated such a high PPD rating.
"To the contrary, the record shows that Hudson exercises considerable independence in his daily activities," the court ruled.
"Among other things, he rents a room and lives on his own; he cares for his 11-year-old son, who splits his time between Hudson and the child’s mother; he manages his medications, finances, and personal affairs; he takes walks by himself in the mornings and occasionally meets with friends; and he volunteers at his son’s school twice a week.
"This evidence demonstrates that Hudson is capable of taking care of himself without sheltering and supervision of any activities, let alone 'all activities.' In short, Dr. Ghelfi assigned a PPD rating that is manifestly contrary to the facts in the record."