39-71-119, MCA

MONTANA SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

Ford v. Sentry Casualty Company, 2012 MT 156 The Montana Supreme Court held that it must read §§ 39-71-407 and -119, MCA, together, “not only because the former expressly references the latter, but also because when interpreting statutes we view them as part of a whole statutory scheme and construe them so as to forward the purpose of that scheme.”

[1993] King v. TTC Illinois, Inc., 2000 MT 260 Where WCC credited testimony indicating the decedent, an over-the-road truck driver, died of longstanding severe atherosclerotic disease, claimants failed to meet their burden of establishing that death was casued by a specific event on a single day or during a single work shift as required by section 39-71-119(2)(d), MCA (1993).
[1987] Yarborough v. Montana Municipal Insurance Authority, 282 Mont. 475, 938 P.2d 679 (1997). WCC correctly determined post traumatic stress disorder suffered by firefighter arose from shock and fright of work incident, not from relatively minor burns firefighter received. His disability is characterized as mental-mental (mental stimulus, mental consequence), which falls outside the definition of injury in section 39-71-119(3), MCA (1987). See also, Stratemeyer v. Lincoln County, 259 Mont. 147, 855 P.2d 506 (1993) (Stratemeyer I) and Stratemeyer v. Lincoln County, 276 Mont. 67, 915 P.1d 175 (Stratemeyer II).
 
WORKERS' COMPENSATION COURT DECISIONS

Myles v. Sparta Insurance Company [05/30/14] 2014 MTWCC 19 The opinions of two treating physicians that Petitioner’s hip condition resulted from a work-related injury were more persuasive than the opinion of the IME physician who never asked Petitioner about the onset of symptoms but relied instead on a review of Petitioner’s medical records.  Although these records consistently referred to a popping sound and sudden onset of hip pain from stepping up into a semi-truck, the IME physician never referenced this history in his report and concluded Petitioner’s hip condition was not a result of a work-related injury.

Starkey v. ACE American Ins. Co. [03/17/14] 2014 MTWCC 6 Petitioner proved both an “injury” and an “accident” as defined in § 39-71-119, MCA, through her own testimony and the testimony of corroborating witnesses, that at a specific time on a specific day she twisted her foot on the slanted leg of a picnic table and exclaimed aloud in pain; she was observed using crutches and a motorized cart on succeeding days at work by two managers; and on her first day off after the accident she sought medical treatment and was found on x-ray to have a fractured bone in her foot.

Hartford v. Montana State Fund, In re Claim of McKirdy [08/01/12] 2012 MTWCC 28 Although Respondent argues that the claimant suffered from an occupational disease, the evidence presented to the Court was that the claimant felt a “pop” while working, the claimant’s supervisor testified that he witnessed the incident, and the claimant’s treating physician opined that the claimant’s rotator cuff tear was caused by an industrial accident.  The Court concluded the claimant had an injury and not an occupational disease.

Peterson v. Uninsured Employers' Fund [03/05/12] 2012 MTWCC 7 Petitioner failed to meet his burden of proof that he sustained an “accident” as defined by § 39-71-119, MCA, where the only evidence supporting his claim was the description in his medical records that a storage unit door fell on him.  Due to his cognitive difficulties, Petitioner was unable to give an accurate accounting of the events that caused his accident. Every other witness testified that the storage unit doors cannot fall down when they are opened, and there was insufficient medical evidence to prove his condition resulted from trauma.

Martin v. Montana State Fund [08/26/11] 2011 MTWCC 25 Although Petitioner’s treating physician identified objective medical findings to support Petitioner’s claim of lumbar spine problems, Petitioner did not establish that his injury occurred because of a specific event on a single day or during a single work shift.  Neither his co-worker nor his employer could corroborate his account of an industrial accident.  Petitioner and his co-worker both testified that Petitioner said nothing about an injury at the time Petitioner alleged it occurred, and Petitioner’s employer testified that Petitioner specifically denied injuring himself on the job.  Petitioner contradicted himself on this point between his trial and deposition testimony.  Petitioner failed to establish that his injury was caused by an accident within the meaning found in § 39-71-119, MCA.

Petritz v. Montana State Fund [06/10/10] 2010 MTWCC 17 Although the Court concluded that the claimant suffered an “accident” as defined in § 39-71-119(2)(a), MCA, because the incident which occurred at work qualified as an unusual strain, the Court nonetheless concluded that the claimant’s myocardial infarction was not compensable because he did not meet the higher burden of § 39-71-119(5), MCA, where the medical evidence presented did not support a conclusion that, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, his work-related activities were more than 50% responsible for his myocardial infarction.

Petritz v. Montana State Fund [06/10/10] 2010 MTWCC 17 On an 85-degree day, a sheet metal worker was installing a piece of duct work onto an assembly which weighed several hundred pounds when the jack holding the duct work in place became snagged and twisted the assembly.  The worker lifted one end of the duct work and held it while other workers freed the jack.  The incident qualifies as an unusual strain and therefore constitutes an accident as defined by the statute.

Rau v. Montana State Fund [06/04/08] 2008 MTWCC 26 Where Petitioner fell and sustained a severe head injury upon impact, she suffered an unexpected traumatic event which is an “accident” as defined in § 39-71-119, MCA.
Rach v. Montana State Fund [04/29/08] 2008 MTWCC 20 Under § 39-71-119(5), MCA, Petitioner’s heart condition can be causally attributed to his employment only if his work-related accident is the primary cause of the condition. Although his treating physician opined that the blunt force trauma he allegedly suffered at work caused a torn cord in his heart, Petitioner’s treating physician retracted her opinion when further diagnostic testing revealed that Petitioner did not have a torn cord. With no medical opinion to support his contention, Petitioner’s heart condition cannot be causally attributed to his employment under § 39-71-119(5), MCA.
Siebken v. Liberty [11/27/07] 2007 MTWCC 48 The incident reports filed by bank security guards which describe physically restraining a trespasser do not describe “an unexpected traumatic incident or unusual strain,” and therefore do not describe an “accident” as that term is defined in the statute.
Siebken v. Liberty [11/27/07] 2007 MTWCC 48 Petitioner was involved in a work-related altercation with a trespasser on December 11, 2004. He and his co-workers reported the altercation in incident reports filed soon afterward. Petitioner did not know that he suffered an injury during that altercation until May 26, 2006. Petitioner filed a workers’ compensation claim on July 3, 2006, more than 30 days after he learned that he had suffered an injury during that altercation. The Court found the initial incident reports did not put the employer on notice that Petitioner experienced “an unexpected traumatic incident or unusual strain,” and therefore the reporting requirements of § 39-71-603, MCA, were not met.
Vallance v. MCCF [07/05/06] 2006 MTWCC 26 Distinct, identifiable incidents which satisfy the injury definition of § 39-71-119, MCA, fall under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Whitlock v. Fremont Indus. Indem. Co., 2002 MTWCC 12, ¶¶ 28, 31.
[1993] Leger v. Liberty Mutual Fire Ins. Co. [11/05/04] 2004 MTWCC 74 Where a nonwork-related incident satisfies the injury and accident definitions of section 39-71-119, MCA (1993), the incident constitutes a subsequent nonwork-related injury for purposes of section 39-71-407(5), MCA (1993).
[1999] Harger v. Montana Contractor Compensation Fund [12/26/03] 2003 MTWCC 72 Where claimant asserts that physical harm arose over a single work shift, his claim arises under the Workers' Compensation Act, not the Occupational Disease Act. §§ 39-71-119(2)(d) and 39-72-102(10), MCA (1999).
[2001] Burgan v. Liberty Northwest [8/27/03] 2003 MTWCC 59 Although claimant had a headache and bad taste in his mouth following exposure to gas, he presented no objective medical findings of a physical injury as required under section 39-71-119(1)(a), MCA (2001). The Court is persuaded that claimant's disabling mental condition resulted from his psychological reaction to the work incident. Under section 39-71-119, MCA (2001), and Yarborough v. MMIA, 282 Mont. 475, 938 P.2d 679 (1997), claimant's condition is a mental-mental condition not compensable under the Workers' Compensation Act.
[1993] King v. Credit General Ins. Co. [11/10/99] 1999 MTWCC 72 WCC was not persuaded that work activities of over-the-road truck driver caused an arrhythmia leading to his death, but credited testimony indicating claimant died from longstanding "severe atherosclerotic disease." Thus, claimants failed to prove that death resulted from a specific event on a single day or during a single work shift as required by statute. [Note: WCC affirmed on appeal, King v. Credit General, 2000 MT 260 ("the Kings did not meet their burden of establishing that Russell King's death was ‘caused by a specific event on a single day or during a single work shift' as required under section 39-71-119(2)(d), MCA (1993)."]
[1997] Jacobs v. Liberty Northwest Ins. [9/25/98] 1998 MTWCC 68 While claimant proved that electrician work for his employer caused a temporary exacerbation of preexisting shoulder and left limb problems, he did not prove injury on a single day or work shift. His petition for a compensable injury is dismissed, but the WCC notes the insurer is obligated to adjust his claim under the Occupational Disease Act where elements of an OD have been proven.
[1995] Wall v. National Union Fire Ins. Co. [2/24/98] 1998 MTWCC 11 Where claimant credibly testified to stepping 12-18 inches from a rail car ladder to the ground, and falling to the ground in severe left knee pain, he established an accident and injury within section 39-71-119, MCA (1995). Even if the dismounting incident were not considered a traumatic incident in the strict sense, a compensable injury can be proven with evidence of "an unusual result from a work-related strain" where internal or external harm is established by objective medical findings. Credible medical evidence from claimant's treating physician, an expert in sports medicine and knee conditions who treated claimant's knee condition both before and after the incident, established that following the dismounting incident claimant's condition was different, with a different diagnosis and requiring different treatment.
[1995] Cheetham v. Liberty NW [6/11/97] 1997 MTWCC 37 51-year old heavy equipment and crane operator suffered an aortic dissection after spending 20 to 30 minutes trying to start a gas powered pump, requiring 50 to 70 pulls on a cord similar to those on lawn mowers. The general criteria for a compensable injury under section 39-71-119(2), MCA (1995) are met where an usual strain at work caused claimant internal physical harm, verified by objective medical findings. In cases of cardiovascular incidents, section 39-71-119(5)(a), MCA (1995), permits compensation "only if the accident is the primary cause of the physical condition in relation to other factors contributing to the physical condition," with "primary cause" defined as "a cause that, with a reasonable degree of medical certainty, is responsible for more than 50% of the physical condition." Where two physicians, one a cardiologist, credibly testified claimant's aortic dissection was more than 50% attributable to his episode of high blood pressure, which in turn was caused by strenuous work activities, the condition is compensable.
[1993] Guedesse v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company [3/12/97] 1997 MTWCC 10 Where the claim form signed by claimant did not state any specific event or any specific time or place for an alleged injury, it fails to identify an industrial accident or injury within the meaning of the Workers' Compensation Act.
[1987] Yarborough v. MMIA [6/28/96] 1996 MTWCC 48 Where the evidence demonstrates that it was mental shock or mental fright that gave rise to firefighter claimant's post traumatic stress disorder, his allegedly disabling condition is one "arising from . . . . emotional or mental stress" and is excluded from the definition of compensable injury within section 39-71-119(3), MCA (1987). [Note: this decision was affirmed in Yarborough v. Montana Municipal Insurance Authority, 282 Mont. 475, 938 P.2d 679 (1997).]
[1991] Bailey v. State Fund [1/5/96] 1996 MTWCC 3 A 36-year old construction worker failed to persuade WCC that skin condition, diagnosed as eczema dermatitis, arose or was triggered on particular roofing job. No accident or injury occurred within WCA.
[1991] Bailey v. State Fund [1/5/96] 1996 MTWCC 3 Subsection defining certain forms of alleged accidents as WCA injuries only if the accident is the "primary cause" of the physical harm applies to claim for compensation relating to eczema dermatitis condition. The subsection refers to "cardiovascular, pulmonary, respiratory, or other disease." While the word "disease" is not defined in the WCA or ODA, the dictionary definition of the word is broad enough to encompass dermatitis caused by allergens or environmental conditions.
[1989] Peterson v. State Comp. Ins. Fund [11/23/94] 1994 MTWCC 105 Although the 1987 Legislature amended the definition of compensable injuries to exclude mental conditions “arising from (a) emotional or mental stress; or (b) a non physical stimulus or activity,” mental conditions remain compensable when caused or aggravated by physical injuries meeting the statutory definition of compensable industrial injury.