In re Claim of Bryant, 031820 COWC, 5-102-109-001

Docket Nº:W.C. 5-102-109-001
Case Date:March 18, 2020
MESA COUNTY VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT #51, Self-Insured Employer, Respondent.
W.C. No. 5-102-109-001
Colorado Workers Compensation
Industrial Claim Appeals Office
March 18, 2020
          KILLIAN DAVIS RICHTER & MAYLE PC, Attn: DREW R KRANIAK ESQ, C/O: CHRISOPHER H RICHTER ESQ, (For Claimant).           RUEGSEGGER SIMONS & STERN LLC, Attn: CAROL A FINLEY ESQ, (For Respondents).          FINAL ORDER          The respondent seeks review of an order of Administrative Law Judge Mottram (ALJ) dated November 18, 2019, that determined claimant sustained a compensable injury and awarded temporary partial disability benefits. We affirm.          The claimant is employed as a third grade teacher for the employer. On January 28, 2019, claimant arrived at work at 7:45 a.m. After performing some duties involving preparation for the upcoming school day, claimant was walking down a hallway in the school and as he came around a corner, he nearly collided with a co-worker.          In his startled movements associated with avoiding the near collision, the claimant’s leg “stuck” and he felt a “pop” in his left knee with an immediate onset of searing pain The other person involved in the near collision, Ms. Bailey, testified and confirmed that the incident occurred. She further testified that claimant stopped suddenly [to avoid contact] and thereafter needed to put his hand on her shoulder for support as he was in obvious pain.          The injury was immediately reported to the school principal and in turn to the third party administrator. Claimant was referred for medical treatment with either Dr. McLaughlin or Dr. Stagg. Claimant was initially evaluated by Dr. McLaughlin on March 8, 2019 Dr. McLaughlin noted that claimant had a prior work-related injury in February 2014. X-rays taken in 2014 revealed a knee effusion and degenerative disease of the patellofemoral joint. Dr. McLaughlin diagnosed a left knee strain consistent with his reported work injury with known pre-existing degenerative joint disease. A recommended MRI was initially denied by respondent.          Claimant testified that after his 2014 work-related knee injury, he received physical therapy (PT), and by the end of 2014 did not have significant symptoms in his left knee. He was placed at maximum medical improvement and provided with a permanent impairment rating. He testified that his knee would continue to hurt on occasion and he would treat it with over-the-counter medications.          For this injury, claimant underwent an initial course of PT with Mr. Richardson beginning March 27, 2019. Mr. Richardson noted that claimant felt like his knee would buckle during the PT. Mr. Richardson noted that claimant’s findings were consistent with medial meniscus tear/internal derangement of the left knee.          Claimant returned to Dr. McLaughlin on April 2, 2019, with continued swelling, soreness, and pain with standing. Dr. McLaughlin renewed his recommendation for an MRI despite the respondent’s denial. An MRI was performed on June 28, 2019 and demonstrated a complex medial meniscus tear and tricompartmental arthrosis. Moderate joint effusion with a small Baker cyst was also noted.          Dr. McLaughlin opined that the meniscus injury was either caused by, or exacerbated by the acute stopping at the time of the near collision at work. Dr. McLaughlin recommended that claimant see an orthopedic surgeon as soon as possible.          Respondent commissioned an independent medical examination (IME) with Dr. Failinger, an orthopedic surgeon on July 25, 2019. The doctor noted that claimant continued to complain of pain and swelling in the knee. He opined that claimant had significant degenerative joint disease with significant symptoms in the left knee. He opined that the MRI findings were primarily degenerative in nature. Dr. Failinger felt that claimant’s work injury caused an exacerbation of a pre-existing disease, but opined it was not medically probable that it caused a permanent acceleration of the left knee condition. He concluded that the incident did not cause new pathology in his left knee, as claimant did not experience a significant fall or a major force that impacted the knee.          Dr. Failinger testified that his use of the term “exacerbation” does not mean that the underlying pathology changed at all. He opined that the incident on January 28, 2019, would not have caused symptoms in a healthy knee.          The ALJ considered the claimant’s preexisting knee condition and credited claimant’s testimony that the symptoms in...

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