WCB Appellate Division Decision in Traumatic Brain Injury Case

The Maine Workers’ Compensation Board Appellate Division recently issued an interesting decision in a traumatic brain injury case, upholding the Administrative Law Judge's interpretation of a medical report finding the work injury resolved, in spite of continuing symptoms.

In Donna Labbe v. The Goggin Company, Labbe worked as a bookkeeper for the Goggin Company and had "a pre-existing history of migraine headaches, anxiety and depression, among other things." On 1/8/09, she was on a work errand (apparently outside) when a piece of ice fell from above and hit her head. She went to the ER and had 2 negative CT scans but required treatment from a neurologist and neuropsychologist for headaches, light sensitivity, difficulty in concentrating and other cognitive symptoms.

Goggin voluntarily paid Labbe incapacity benefits until 2011, when Goggin filed a Petition for Review, contending that the effects of the injury had ended. Dr. Esponnette conducted two §207 exams and diagnosed Labbe with a concussion and post-concussive syndrome, but he also said "However, over time, on a very gradual basis, … conversion disorder has taken over." [“Conversion disorder” means a psychological condition producing physical symptoms, similar to “somatization.”]

Judge Collier interpreted Dr. Esponnette's report to mean that Labbe’s conversion disorder was not caused by the work injury, and he found the report persuasive, granted the petition for review, and terminated her benefits. Labbe appealed, arguing that Judge Collier misconstrued Dr. Esponnette's report, and that the conversion disorder was a psychological sequela of the work injury.

The Appellate Division panel held that Judge Collier's finding was a "reasonable interpretation" of Dr. Esponnette's report, especially since Dr. Kolkin's medical opinion buttressed Dr. Esponnette’s opinion. The panel held that Judge Collier's findings were supported in the record and therefore affirmed his decision.

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Thomas Getchell
Daniel Gilligan
Michael Richards
Attorneys at Law