12-0021. JENNIFER C. FLETCHER Employee Claimant v. PACIFIC RIM GEOLOGICAL CONSULTING INC Employer and AK NATIONAL INS CO Insurer, Defendant(s).
Alaska Workers Compensation Decisions 2012. Workers' Compensation Board 12-0021. JENNIFER C. FLETCHER Employee Claimant v. PACIFIC RIM GEOLOGICAL CONSULTING INC Employer and AK NATIONAL INS CO Insurer, Defendant(s) Alaska Workers' Compensation Appeals Commission JENNIFER C. FLETCHER, Employee, Claimant v. PACIFIC RIM GEOLOGICAL CONSULTING INC, Employer, and AK NATIONAL INS CO, Insurer, Defendant(s).AWCB Decision No. 12-0021Filed with AWCB Fairbanks, Alaskaon January 30, 2012AWCB Case No. 200715534FINAL DECISION AND ORDERJennifer Fletcher's (Employee) May 19, 2010 workers' compensation claim (WCC); August 9, 2010 letter seeking review of determination of designee's July 30, 2010 ruling ordering Employee to sign employment, unemployment and insurance releases; September 14, 2010 petition for protective order; October 16, 2010 letter to revoke previously signed medical release; February 17, 2011 letter requesting production of documents from Employer; November 28, 2011 oral request seeking review of determination of designee's July 30, 2010 ruling ordering Employer to revise its cover letter accompanying medical releases; and Pacific Rim Geological Consulting's (Employer) August 19, 2010 petition to dismiss; October 5, 2010 petition for sanctions; and December 30, 2010 request for production were heard on December 8, 2011, in Fairbanks, Alaska. Employee appeared and represented herself. Attorney Rebecca Holdiman Miller represented Employer. Employee testified on her own behalf. There were no other witnesses. The record closed at the hearing's conclusion on December 8, 2011. ISSUES Employee objects to consideration of Dr. Ritter's report on the basis he did not testify at hearing and she did not have an opportunity to cross examine him. Employee contends his report is poorly written and contains misspellings. Employer contends Employee's request for cross examination was untimely. 1) Shall Dr. Kenneth J. Ritter, M.D.'s report be considered? Employee contends she injured her groin while using a lightning rod to probe permafrost at work, and is therefore entitled to medical and related transportation costs, temporary total disability (TTD), interest, and penalties. Employer contends there is no medical evidence connecting Employee's disability or need for medical treatment to her work and, therefore, Employee does not raise the presumption of compensability and is not entitled to the benefits she claims. 2) Is Employee entitled to medical and related transportation costs? 3) Is Employee entitled to temporary total disability? 4) Is Employee entitled to interest? Employee contends the controversion was unfair or frivolous because the May 19, 2008 Notice of Controversion lists the wrong injury. She also contends the controversion was improper because Employer first controverted her benefits verbally, and only later controverted them in writing. Employer presented no evidence or argument on the unfair or frivolous controversion issue, and its position is unknown. 5) Was Employer's controversion unfair or frivolous? Employee contends because Employer unfairly or frivolously controverted here benefits, she is entitled to a penalty. 6) Is Employee entitled to a penalty? Employee contends Employer's cover letter accompanying medical releases is too general, and implies any and all records may be released. She contends the language in the cover letter should mirror the request in the release. Employer contends, pursuant to board's July 30, 2010 order, it removed the "any and all records in you possession" language from its cover letters sent to providers and, therefore, Employee's objections to its cover letter accompanying medical releases is moot. 7) Did the Board Designee resolve Employee's August 5, 2010 petition for a protective order, regarding the content of Employer's cover letter accompanying its medical release? Employee confirms she is attempting to re-litigate the issue of the medical release, and contends the medical release is overbroad. She contends her petition was timely. Employer contends all issues regarding medical releases were resolved by the board's designee's July 30, 2010 ruling and Employee is attempting to re-litigate this issue. It further contends Employee's petition is untimely. 8) Did the Board Designee resolve Employee's September 14, 2010 petition for protective order regarding medical releases? Employee contends employment, insurance and unemployment releases are not relevant to her claim because she is not seeking vocational rehabilitation benefits. She assures Employer she has not received unemployment benefits. Employee objects to the employment release because she is worried about her current employer's reaction to receiving the request. Employee contends she filed proof of service with the board. Employer contends issues relating to releases were settled by the board's designee's July 30, 2010 rulings, and her rulings were correct. It contends the 1996 injury and the 2007 injury are the same, unemployment benefits and wages are relevant because of Employee's claim for temporary total disability benefits, and it is entitled to discovery. Employer further contends Employee never served it with her letter requesting a protective order and her letter was untimely filed. 9) Did the Board designee abuse her discretion by ordering Employee to sign employment, unemployment and insurance records releases? Employee contends the content of Employer's cover letter that accompanied the medical release is the basis for her revocation. Employer confirms the basis for Employee's revocation was the content of the cover letter sent with the releases. 10) What is the effect of Employee's October 16, 2010 revocation of a previously signed medical release? Employer contends its December 30, 2010 request for production was made because Employee revoked the prior release and documents related to Employee's communications with providers regarding Employer's request for medical records or, the release of medical records, is relevant to its ability to investigate Employee's claim. Employee contends her "memo" and a subsequently executed medical release "was enough" of a response to Employer's production request. 11) Should Employee be ordered to comply with Employer's December 30, 2010 request for production of documents related to Employee's communications with providers regarding Employer's request for medical records or the release of medical records? Employee contends Employer failed to produce phone logs. She further contends she believes she spoke to someone prior to the calls documented in the produced records, and records pertaining to that communication should be produced. Employer contends it has produced all requested documents and contends the running notes it has already produced serve as a phone log. 12) Has Employer complied with Employee's February 22, 2011 request for production of documents related to the adjuster's case file and communications? Employer contends Employee has willfully violated two board discovery orders and deliberately disrupted the discovery process. It contends its cover letter accompanying its release warns Employee of potential consequences for not returning releases, and contends Employee was represented in her previous claim, so she should be aware of the consequences of her failure to cooperate in discovery. Employer further contends Employee did not oppose its petitions. Employee would not acknowledge whether or not she received Employer's petitions, but demands proof Employer served her with its petitions. 13) Did Employee refuse to sign and return releases within 10 days after being ordered to do so and, if so, what is the appropriate sanction. FINDINGS OF FACT 1) In 1996, Employee suffered a workplace lifting injury, and then underwent right inguinal hernia repair surgery in 2000. (Dr. Klinger report, April 28, 2008, Fletcher deposition at 28-30). 2) Employee's pain following the 1996 hernia was on her right side only. (Fletcher). 3) Employee's pain resolved following her 2000 surgery. (Id.). 4) On August 23, 2007, Employee reported she suffered an abdominal strain and injured her right groin while working for Employer as a geological technician. (Report of Occupational Injury, September 21, 2007; WCC, May 19, 2010). 5) Employee initially felt pain on her right side, and later felt pain on her left. The pain on her left side was not as prominent, and intermittent. (Fletcher). 6) The pain following the August 23, 2007 injury was bi-lateral and more severe than the pain following Employee's 1996 hernia. (Id.). 7) On April 28, 2008, Employee sought treatment from Dean Klinger, M.D., complaining of pain in the right inguinal area and "of some in the left inguinal area." Dr. Klinger was unable to identify a hernia in either Employee's right or left side. He assessed "[r]ight and left inguinal pain, unknown etiology," and ordered a CT scan. (Dr. Klinger report, April 28, 2008). 8) On April 28, 2008, a CT scan was performed. No recurrent hernia was noted. (Dr. Patel report, May 6, 2008). 9) Employee sought no further treatment for right or left inguinal pain following her April 28, 2008 appointment with Dr. Klinger. (Records, observations, Fletcher). 10) On May 19, 2008, Employer filed a Controversion Notice, denying payment of a medical bill from Southeast Surgical for $116.00 on the basis "[n]o medical documentation received to support relationship between treatment received on 4/28/08 and our...
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