Blanco v. Service Industrial Inc., 100821 COWC, 5-121-674-001

Docket NºW.C. 5-121-674-001
Case DateOctober 08, 2021
PINNACOL ASSURANCE, Insurer, Respondents.
W.C. No. 5-121-674-001
Colorado Workers Compensation
Industrial Claim Appeals Office
October 8, 2021
         FINAL ORDER          The claimant seeks review of an order of Administrative Law Judge Spencer (ALJ) dated April 3, 2021, and issued on April 5, 2021, that denied and dismissed her claim for workers’ compensation benefits. We affirm.          The ALJ conducted evidentiary hearings on December 19, 2020 and February 5, 2021. After considering the evidence and reviewing the parties’ respective post-hearing position statements, the ALJ established findings of fact, which are summarized below.          Claimant worked for the employer for approximately 3½ years as a seamstress. Her normal duties included adjusting the length of pant legs, detaching and attaching bar codes, sewing emblems onto garments, assigning and sewing RFID chips into garments, scanning orders, covering garments with plastic bags, and entering completed orders into a computer system. Claimant typically worked four nine-hour shifts per week.          On January 17, 2019, claimant suffered an admitted work injury to her left index finger. The employer accommodated claimant’s work restrictions of no use of her left hand and use of a splint. The initial modified duty assignment was trimming emblems, which involved cutting threads from the backside of embroidered emblems The ALJ indicated claimant’s testimony regarding this task was conflicting. Initially claimant testified she removed emblems with pliers for her entire shift for three months Later she testified she removed emblems using only her right hand and worked with her arms at shoulder length. Claimant conceded she performed other tasks but continued to assert she typically spent her entire day trimming emblems while on modified duty.          Claimant’s supervisor, Mr. O’Keefe, testified claimant performed a variety of tasks on modified duty because the employer did not have sufficient emblem production to keep claimant busy her entire shift for three months. The ALJ deemed this testimony credible. Mr. O’Keefe assigned claimant to assist other employees with tasks within her restrictions rather than reassign other employees from their regular duties to provide claimant with modified work. The tasks included trimming threads from emblems, marking and stacking emblems, trimming paper from embroidered garments, and removing RFID chips from old garments before they were discarded. Claimant generally performed at least three different duties each day for no more than three hours per duty.          After claimant started modified duty, HealthOne records document hand and arm symptoms, primarily on the left side. The right arm was also mentioned briefly. On January 24, HealthOne documented, “her right hand is getting overused now and with some use of the fingers of her left hand, by the end of the workday her finger hurts worse.” On January 31, claimant reported, “her right hand is much less painful now with breaks during work. Work is going well. Abiding by restrictions.”          Claimant reported that on February 13 she was taking off letters using her left forearm to hold down fabric as she tore the names off. After a few hours, her 2nd and 3rd digits and wrist were very inflamed. The pain was tolerable but she went to her boss who put her on different work. By the next day, following ibuprofen, heat, and exercises, she felt much better. She was examined on February 14, reporting pain extending from the 2nd digit to the dorsum of the left hand, wrist, and forearm. There was no mention of any issues with the right hand. Mr. O’Keefe corroborated that claimant told him her hands were “tired” from trimming emblems, so he had reassigned her to other duties. He continued to assign rotating duties thereafter while claimant remained on restrictions. Mr. O’Keefe credibly testified claimant never made any subsequent comments or complaints about pain or difficulty performing modified or regular duties.          On February 26, claimant informed Dr. Leitl about pain and paresthesia in her left hand, wrist, and fingers. Dr. Leitl advised claimant to wear a brace and indicated she would consider electrodiagnostic testing for possible carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) if the symptoms persisted. There was no mention of any problems with the right arm. At a follow-up appointment on March 20, Dr. Leitl again documented left arm symptoms consistent with CTS, but opined, “I would not expect the original injury to have caused this condition, however, there is a question of a secondary injury 2/13. There is no documented injury to the right hand.” An EMG was ordered “to evaluate for CTS vs distal medial nerve injury.”          On April 11, claimant told Dr. Leitl her left wrist, thumb, and index finger symptoms were no better and she was starting to have pain in her upper arm. Dr. Leitl noted, “she attributes this to ‘lifting’ more frequently, however her restrictions have not changed … Since her last visit, she has been tasked to remove a chip from a piece of clothing, remove the clothing from a hanger and place the clothing into the garbage, but otherwise adhering to her two pound lifting restriction.” Dr. Leitl opined the wrist and arm symptoms were consistent with CTS and possibly mild medial epicondylitis and biceps tendonitis. The doctor did not believe the symptoms were related to the original injury and advised claimant to pursue treatment under her health insurance or consider filing a separate claim if claimant believed the symptoms were work-related.          Claimant was placed at maximum...

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