MO Comp Update: Industrial Commission FINALLY gets it right on Objective vs. Subjective Complaints
Missouri Workers Compensation Update
Since the Missouri Workers Compensation Act was amended in 2005, the Industrial Commission has consistently failed to properly apply this provision:
§287.190.6(2): “In determining compensability and disability, where inconsistent or conflicting medical opinions exist, objective medical findings shall prevail over subjective medical findings.”
In the case of Danny Harris v. Ralls County (read it HERE), from January 15, 2019, the Commission FINALLY gets it. Here, claimant had extensive pre-existing degenerative changes at the lumbar spine. The work injury consisted of a sprain strain, and no medical professional could point to any objective evidence of injury….merely increased subjective complaints of pain and evidence of pre-existing degenerative conditions.
The ALJ awarded permanent total disability benefits and medical benefits for the life of the claimant. The Commission reversed the Perm Total award and awarded 5% of the body (based on a sprain/strain), stating:
“(T)he objective evidence did not show an identifiable source of the radicular symptoms into the legs as complained of by the employee. The treating doctors did not identify clear evidence of acute injury. No doctor identified a specific condition from the imaging studies which could directly be traced to the work incident as the prevailing factor.”
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT
This is a fact pattern that we face on a daily basis – claimant presents with subjective complaints but there is no objective evidence of a work injury, only pre-existing degenerative changes.
I assisted in the drafting of the 2005 Amendments and provided counsel to the Missouri House of Representatives on how §287.190.6(2) should be applied. This application by the Industrial Commission is EXACTLY what the Legislature had in mind when it drafted and passed the 2005 Amendments – – there must be some objective evidence of injury.
In cases where you have a claimant with a minor work injury superimposed on prior extensive degenerative changes, I recommend aggressive defense of these claims now that the Industrial Commission is finally properly applying §287.190.6(2).
If you would like to discuss how this decision might apply to any of your pending cases, please let me know.