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Wilkerson v. Kimball International, Inc.

Supreme Court of Kentucky

September 26, 2019

JAMES A. WILKERSON APPELLANT
v.
KIMBALL INTERNATIONAL, INC; DR. DAVID P. ROUBEN; HON. GRANT S. ROARK, ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE; ANDWORKERS' COMPENSATION BOARD APPELLEES

          ON APPEAL FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASE NO. 2018-CA-000561 WORKERS' COMPENSATION BOARD NO. 12-WC-85251

          COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Abram V. Conway II Conway & Keown

          COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, KIMBALL INTERNATIONAL, INC.: Judson Fuller Devlin Fulton 85 Devlin, LLC

          COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, WORKERS' COMPENSATION BOARD: Michael W. Alvey Workers' Compensation Board

          COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, HON. GRANT S. ROARK, ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE: Honorable Grant Stewart Roark Administrative Law Judge

          COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, DR. DAVID P. ROUBEN: Dr. David P. Rouben Pro se

          OPINION

          KELLER, JUSTICE

         This matter arose after the appellant, James A. Wilkerson, sustained a back injury while working for the appellee, Kimball International, Inc. ("Kimball"). Wilkerson filed a claim with the Department of Workers' Claims, and a hearing was held on his claim. The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") awarded Wilkerson temporary total disability, permanent partial disability, and medical benefits for a back strain he sustained while working for Kimball. The ALJ denied benefits for a knee injury and two back surgeries, finding they were not causally related to his employment, and therefore not compensable. Wilkerson appealed the denial of benefits. The Workers' Compensation Board ("Board") affirmed the ALJ, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the Board. We, likewise, affirm the Court of Appeals.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Wilkerson was employed by Kimball on April 4, 2012 when he sustained an alleged work-related back injury. He was lifting a large bookcase when he felt a pop in his low back and experienced a burning sensation in his leg. He immediately reported the injury to Kimball.

         Wilkerson was first treated by Dr. Robert Byrd on April 16, 2012. He reported injuring himself while lifting ten days prior. His chief complaint was "low back pain" that radiated into his left leg. Dr. Byrd diagnosed Wilkerson with a "Lumbar Spasm, " ordered conservative treatment including physical therapy, and indicated that he could return to work on April 19, 2012. On April 26, 2012, Wilkerson returned to Dr. Byrd's office still complaining of "low back pain" that radiated into his left leg. Dr. Byrd diagnosed him with acute low back pain and eventually ordered an MRI. Wilkerson did not report left knee pain to Dr. Byrd.

         On May 29, 2012, Wilkerson underwent an MRI that revealed mild disc bulging at L3-4 and no evidence of nerve root compression. When this MRI was compared to a 2006 MRI of Wilkerson's back, no additional prominence in the disc bulge was noted. Wilkerson continued to see Dr. Byrd until July 2012, when Dr. Byrd referred him to Dr. Eric Goebel, a neurosurgeon.

         On July 3, 2012, Wilkerson saw Dr. Goebel, complaining of lower back pain radiating into' his left leg. He told Dr. Goebel that the pain began approximately three months earlier when he was lifting a cabinet and felt a "pop" in his back. Dr. Goebel assessed that Wilkerson had left lower extremity radicular symptoms, although the MRI revealed no evidence of a herniated disc or nerve root issue. Dr. Goebel noted that Wilkerson's "lower extremity symptoms are improving with physical therapy as well as some of the back pain." Dr. Goebel recommended that Wilkerson continue with physical therapy and remain off work for three additional weeks. Dr. Goebel indicated that there was no basis for back surgery for Wilkerson.

         Wilkerson testified that he continued with physical therapy, and on July 12, 2012, while performing squats as part of his at-home physical therapy, he felt a "pop" in his left knee. He sought treatment at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital. To the hospital, Wilkerson reported that he sat down after performing his ...


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