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Nebraska Workers’ Comp Decision Turns on Medical Opinion of Causation

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In Hintz v. Farmers Cooperative Association, 24 Neb. App. 561 (Neb. Ct. App. February 28, 2017), Hintz was a tire technician at the defendant company. On Thursday, November 13, while working on a repair for a tire off a semitrailer, the tire exploded and threw Hintz back approximately 10 feet. He landed on his back and experienced great pain in this hips and groin. He left work and did not come back on Friday, but did return to work on Monday morning. He did not seek any medical care at that time.

Hintz continued to work, but he indicated only a “little” at a time, while Farmers later presented evidence that he had been fully completing all his job assignments. He later testified that he had not reported the work accident because he was afraid to get Farmers “in trouble.” On December 4, Hintz tripped walking up the stairs in his home. He went for medical treatment the next day, as he was suffering pain in his leg and hip. He later claimed that the ongoing pain and injury from his November 13 accident is what caused him to trip walking up the stairs. After undergoing surgery to repair his hip, he had been out of work for three months and was terminated. He filed a petition with the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court seeking disability benefits.

Hintz’s surgeon offered that in his medical opinion, although the work injury was never reported, the labral tear that was corrected in surgery was severe, and it was likely to have been caused by a high energy work injury, not just falling up the steps. Hintz’s doctor who referred him to the surgeon offered the opinion that it could have been either incident, but that he deferred to the surgeon’s opinion. An expert for Farmers, who only reviewed the medical record and had not examined Hintz, opined that the injury was from the trip and fall. Hintz was denied workers’ comp, and he appealed.

The appeals court found the compensation court’s decision to be “clearly wrong,” as Hintz did present medical evidence that his injury was the result of the November 13 work accident. Further, the surgeon’s opinion, unlike the other two medical experts, were based on his observations during surgery, which provided a “competent, credible foundation for his opinion of causation.” The court also noted that the surgeon’s opinion was “essentially unrebutted.” The court reversed the compensation court’s denial of benefits, and remanded for reconsideration in light of the surgeon’s medical opinion of causation as well as the “beneficent purpose” of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act.

The Metier Law Firm is committed to assisting people with personal injury claims throughout Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska, and we frequently serve as co-counsel to law firms nationwide. Tom Metier recently secured the largest personal injury verdict in Colorado.

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