REVIEW FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASE NO. 2016-CA-000258-WC
WORKERS'COMPENSATION NO. 13-WC-00800
COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Elizabeth M. Hahn O'Bryan Brown
& Toner, PLLC
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Joy Buchenberger Jennings Law Offices
Donald Jobe, has worked for Appellant, Ford Motor Company,
since 2001. In 2012,, Jobe suffered a right hip injury
stemming from an accident at Ford's Louisville plant.
Ford accepted the hip injury as work-related and covered
Jobe's medical bills regarding his hip. Jobe asserted he
also sustained a low back impairment due to the hip injury.
However, Ford disputed that Jobe's back pain had a causal
connection to his work-related hip injury. The administrate
law judge (ALJ) found that Jobe's work-related hip injury
was a proximate cause of his low back impairment. Due to the
causal relationship, the ALJ awarded Jobe benefits regarding
his back. The ALJ awarded Jobe benefits for a 14% permanent
partial disability, temporary total disability benefits for
the periods he was off work due to his back impairment, and
medical benefits. Ford appealed to the Workers'
Compensation Board, to the work-related injury. The
Workers' Compensation Board affirmed the ALJ's
decision, holding the ALJ had substantial evidence to support
his decision. Ford appealed the Board's decision to the
Court of Appeals, which affirmed. Ford now appeals the Court
of Appeals' decision to this Court as a matter of right.
See Vessels v. Brown-Forman Distillers Corp., 793
S.W.2d 795, 798 (Ky. 1990); Ky. Const. § 115.
January 25, 2012, Jobe tripped due to a gap between two
rubber floor mats while working on Ford's assembly line.
When he tripped, Jobe felt a popping sensation in his right
hip. He provided Ford with notice of his injury and went to
the Ford Medical Department. Shortly thereafter, Jobe began
to experience right hip pain. He sought medical treatment for
this pain and was treated by a series of physicians who were
unable to diagnose the cause of the hip pain. Jobe saw Dr.
Nazar who, according to the ALJ's report, referred Jobe
to a hip specialist. That hip specialist believed Jobe's
problems stemmed from a low back condition. Thereafter, Jobe
saw Dr. Guarnaschelli who opined on September 6, 2012, that
Jobe sustained a work-related injury which resulted in
complaints of persistent back and hip pain. (Later, Dr.
Guarnaschelli contradicted this statement when he indicated
on an FMLA form that Jobe's low back condition was. not
due to his occupation.) Dr. Guarnaschelli performed back
surgery on March 23, 2013, but Jobe continued to experience
testified that he believed his back surgery and other medical
treatment for his back was performed in the interest of
resolving the pain from his work-related hip injury. He
testified he had the back surgery because Dr. Guarnaschelli
recommended it as a solution to his hip pain. After his back
surgery, Jobe underwent right hip surgery on February 13,
2014. He testified that, unlike the back surgery, the surgery
on the right hip substantially improved his condition.
the course of his treatment, Jobe was off work during several
intervals. Jobe did not return to work following his injury
until July 2013. He was placed under restriction and did not
return to his previous job, but instead, was assigned the job
of driving trucks off the assembly line. Jobe was then taken
off work again on September 3, 2013. When he returned to work
on October 4, 2013, Jobe continued driving trucks off the
assembly line until October 15, 2013, when he was taken off
work yet again. When Jobe returned to work on July 8, 2014,
he was placed back on regular duty and subsequently obtained
an inspector position-which is his current position with
his most recent return to work, Jobe underwent an independent
medical evaluation (IME) on June 9, 2014. Dr. Farrage
performed the IME, and opined that Jobe's low back
problem was work-related. He testified it was possible for
low back problems to present as hip pain. The ALJ noted that
Dr. Farrage indicated there could have been degenerative
changes in Jobe's back which were dormant prior to the
work injury, but "brought into disabling reality by the
work incident." The ALJ further stated that "Dr.
Farrage explained the treating surgeon felt the lumbar
surgery was necessary following failure of conservative
treatment and there was a reasonable expectation the
procedure would address the right hip pain."
August 6, 2015, the ALJ rendered an opinion awarding Jobe
permanent partial disability benefits from Ford for his 14%
permanent partial disability, beginning from the date of
injury. This 14% impairment rating is a combined percentage
of the 3% impairment for the right hip injury and the 11%
impairment for the low back injury. Further, the ALJ's
opinion ordered Ford to pay all reasonable and necessary
medical expenses for the cure and relief of Jobe's right
hip and low back injuries pursuant to KRS 342.020, and to pay
temporary total disability benefits for the periods of time
Jobe was off work due to his work-related hip and back
appealed to the Board, arguing that it should not be liable
for the disability attributable to Jobe's back condition.
It further argued that the ALJ engaged in unsupported
speculation when he concluded the only reason Jobe underwent
the lumbar surgery was due to a failure to find the source of
his hip pain. Ford asserted this speculation was not
supported by substantial evidence. It contended Jobe would
have undergone back surgery regardless of the work-related
hip injury, and that the award of permanent partial
disability benefits and temporary total disability benefits
attributable to the back condition should be vacated.
Board held that Jobe was successful in his burden of proving
each essential element of his cause of action, leaving the
only question on appeal to be whether there was substantial
evidence to support the ALJ's decision. The Board held
that Dr. Guarnaschelli's September 6, 2012 report and Dr.
Farrage's report constituted substantial evidence.
appealed to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the
Board's decision. That court held that causation of the
back injury was a factual issue and that the ALJ relied on
substantial evidence in finding the back injury to be
work-related. Ford now appeals the Court of Appeals'