Lisa Dolliver v. Pratt & Whitney– The Appellate Division affirms the ALJ’s decision that the employee failed in her burden of proof of establishing a compensable gradual injury to her neck. In Dolliver v. Pratt & Whitney, Me. W.C.B. No. 23-14 (App. Div. 2023), Dolliver showed up at work on 2/25/19 with right shoulder pain, radiating down her arm into her fingers. She went directly to the employer medical dept. reporting that she had worsening right shoulder pain since snow blowing at home on 2/19/19. She treated unsuccessfully with her chiropractor and saw a neurosurgeon, Dr. Wahlig, who recommended a surgical fusion. Dolliver sought a second opinion with Dr. Knox who recommended conservative treatment. Dr. Knox opined the neck condition was work related.
Dolliver then filed a petition for award alleging a work-related gradual injury to the neck of 2/25/19. The ALJ denied the petition, concluding Dolliver did not carry her burden of proving a gradual injury from work or that if she did have a gradual injury, that her work activities contributed to her disability in a significant manner. Dolliver appealed, alleging the ALJ erred by first failing to determine whether there was a gradual work injury to her neck as required by sec. 201(4). The Appellate Division disagreed, finding that the ALJ assumed there could be a gradual injury but there was an absence of persuasive medical evidence linking her work activities with her symptoms or disability. She failed to establish her work activities contributed in a significant manner. While Dolliver testified Dr. Wahlig told her it was work related, she never obtained that opinion in writing. The ALJ further concluded that Dr. Knox’s opinion there was a work related gradual injury was based on an inaccurate history. There was no evidence Dr. Knox had reviewed prior medical records, was aware of a pre-existing cervical disc disease following a 2005 motor vehicle injury, or the extent of her snow blowing activities. Finally, the ALJ did not err in adopting Dr. Glass’ opinion that there was no work related gradual injury to the neck. The ALJ was entitled to adopt medical opinions in whole or part, and choosing between competing medical expert opinions is within the ALJ’s purview.
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