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Employment Blog

Comparative MRIs Support IME Opinion

Authored by Russell W. Wilson
Posted on October 13, 2015
Filed under Employment

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals has affirmed a Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC) decision that denied additional benefits for an initially conceded injury based on the independent medical examiner’s (IME) review of comparative MRIs.  David Dollar had pre-existing degenerative joint disease, as confirmed by a 2009 MRI.  On June 23, 2011, while at work Dollar was injured when a file cabinet fell and struck him in the head.  The injury was conceded; medical treatment and temporary total disability were paid for about eight months after the injury.  The treating physician opined that a surgical fusion would be necessary on account of the work-related injury.  The employee complained of increased pain, which he attributed to the cabinet incident.  At that point an independent medical evaluation was conducted.

An MRI from 2009 demonstrated the existence of degenerative joint disease.  A repeat MRI was taken just two weeks after the work-related injury.  The IME read the second MRI as “largely unchanged” and showing “slight progression” of the degenerative process that had been on-going for several years.  The hearing record contained competing medical opinions as to whether the cabinet incident at work accelerated, precipitated, and aggravated the pre-existing degenerative condition beyond its normal progression.

LIRC accepted the IME’s opinion over that of the treating physician.  There being credible and substantial evidence in the hearing record, the court of appeals affirmed LIRC’s decision.  While the employee argued on appeal that his subjective testimony of increased pain went unchallenged, the court of appeals noted that LIRC had simply concluded that the employee’s increased pain was caused by his underlying disc disease, rather than his work injury.

The employee’s last argument was to assert that there is “no legitimate doubt that he is entitled to benefits.”  The court of appeals found this argument to be equally unavailing.  “This argument simply recasts his first argument that the Commission’s decision is not supported by credible and substantial evidence.  Therefore, we reject this argument.”

The reported case is Dollar v. LIRC, 2015 WL 5554243, decided on September 22, 2015.  Final publication is pending.