Proof: Causation

Barnhart v. Liberty Northwest Ins. Corp. [09/13/16] 2016 MTWCC 12 Where the treating physician opined that the industrial accident permanently aggravated the claimant’s pre-existing neck condition, and the claimant’s subjective complaints of increased pain and other symptoms were consistent with the objective medical findings, and the alleged aggravation occurred in the same cervical disks which the claimant had injured previously, this Court concluded that, via medical evidence and his own credible testimony, the claimant had proven that his industrial accident permanently aggravated his pre-existing condition.

Haines v. Montana University System Self-Funded Workers' Compensation Program [06/09/15] 2015 MTWCC 9 Although the Court found it plausible that Petitioner’s exposure to various chemicals in his workplace caused him to develop peripheral neuropathy, mere plausibility is insufficient.  Where the only evidence Petitioner had in this regard was the opinion of an expert witness the Court found unreliable, Petitioner did not prove that he suffered from an occupational disease.

Boland v. Montana State Fund [03/21/14] 2014 MTWCC 8 After reviewing Petitioner’s treating physician’s medical records, the Court found that the physician did not have full knowledge of the facts regarding Petitioner’s subsequent employment, a non-work-related fall, and chiropractic treatment.  The Court further found that an IME physician believed that Petitioner’s subsequent employment lasted for six weeks when it actually lasted for several months, and that the IME physician made no objective medical findings.  The Court therefore concluded that Petitioner did not meet his burden of proving that this particular employment was the major contributing cause of his back condition, and therefore he did not prove that he suffers from an occupational disease under the statute.

Gaudette v. Montana State Fund [03/19/13] 2013 MTWCC 7 Petitioner did not prove that her condition was causally related to her industrial injury where reports of her sensitivity to odors predated her industrial injury, no contemporary medical records supported her account of a reaction to an aerosol office cleaner, one medical provider opined that her reactions were actually anxiety attacks, an industrial hygienist found no contaminants in the workplace, and medical providers who supported Petitioner’s contentions offered no evidence in support of their opinions beyond Petitioner’s subjective reports.  Moreover, other medical experts opined that Petitioner’s condition had a psychological origin, and some of Petitioner’s symptoms could be readily explained as side effects of medications she took.  Petitioner further failed to follow treatment recommendations, refused to disclose part of her medical history to some providers, and refused to undergo a recommended diagnostic procedure. While some evidence supported Petitioner’s claim, it is significantly weaker than the evidence to the contrary.

Koch v. Employers' Ins. Group [04/30/12] 2012 MTWCC 14 The weight of the evidence preponderates towards Petitioner’s contention that the objective medical finding of a disk herniation was caused by her IA where a diagnostic radiologist opined that the herniated disk should have appeared on a CT scan that predated the Petitioner’s IA if it was present then, and a spinal surgeon testified that the mechanism of Petitioner’s IA was more probably than not the cause of her herniated disk.

Rach v. Montana State Fund [04/29/08] 2008 MTWCC 20 The Workers’ Compensation Act provides specific guidance on the element of causation when the alleged injury is a heart condition. Based on test results, Petitioner’s treating physician initially opined that the blunt force trauma Petitioner allegedly suffered at work caused a torn cord. However, she further stated that a more specific diagnostic test could conclusively diagnose the condition. When presented with test results which did not support her diagnosis, the treating physician concluded Petitioner did not suffer a torn cord and rescinded her opinion that his heart condition was caused by his employment. Therefore, Petitioner has no basis for his contention that his heart condition is work-related.
Foster v. Montana Schools Group [06/11/07] 2007 MTWC 18 Where the literature and testimony presented established that avascular necrosis secondary to a meniscectomy is a rare event, Petitioner's treating physician characterized the development of AVN post-arthroscopy as a "very low risk," and her AVN occurred in the lateral compartment of her knee, while the meniscectomy was of the medial meniscus, the Court concluded that Petitioner failed to prove on a more probable than not basis that the AVN was caused by her arthroscopy.
Vercos v. Workers' Compensation Risk Retention Program [6/30/04] 2004 MTWCC 53 To prevail in an occupational disease claim based on exposure to mold, the claimant must show that mold, which is ubiquitous, was present in the workplace at higher levels than other places the claimant frequents.
Vercos v. Workers' Compensation Risk Retention Program [6/30/04] 2004 MTWCC 53 To prevail in an occupational disease claim based on exposure to mold, the clamant must prove that her medical condition was in fact caused or aggravated by her exposure to mold in the workplace. Belief and speculation as to causation are not sufficient.

UEF v. Keith Grant [4/23/04] 2004 MTWCC 38 Where the sole evidence concerning causation is in the form of a written opinion of a physician, the opinion must be read in context. Where the opinion is focused on distinguishing between an injury and occupational disease, the physician's failure to use precise language regarding medical certainty or medical probability is not fatal to a reading of the opinion as finding causation.