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Sanchez v. Caesar's Entm't, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

June 24, 2015

CECILIA SANCHEZ, Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
CAESAR'S ENTERTAINMENT, INC., Defendant-Appellee

Page 1284

Appealed from the Office of Workers' Compensation, District 1W, Parish of Caddo, Louisiana. Docket No. 13-06488. Honorable Patrick F. Robinson, Judge.

FISCHER, HATHAWAY & MANNO, By: Mark K. Manno, Counsel for Appellant.

PETTIETTE, ARMAND, DUNKELMAN, WOODLEY, BYRD & CROMWELL, LLP, By: Robert A. Dunkelman, Jessica L. Thornhill, Counsel for Appellee.

Before WILLIAMS, PITMAN & GARRETT, JJ.

OPINION

Page 1285

[49,864 La.App. 2 Cir. 1] PITMAN, J.

Plaintiff Cecilia Sanchez appeals the judgment of the Workers' Compensation Judge (" WCJ" ) in favor of Defendant Caesar's Entertainment, Inc. (" Caesar's" ), and Caesar's appeals the WCJ's judgment in favor of Ms. Sanchez. For the following reasons, we affirm.

FACTS

In 1995, Ms. Sanchez began working as a card dealer at the Horseshoe Casino, which is owned by Caesar's. On November 26, 2011, Ms. Sanchez injured her back and hip when she slipped and fell on a metal ramp at the casino. Caesar's paid indemnity benefits from May 15, 2013, through October 16, 2013.

On September 10, 2013, Ms. Sanchez filed a Form1008 (disputed claim for compensation) seeking indemnity benefits, all reasonable and necessary medical treatment, penalties and attorney fees.

On October 4, 2013, Ms. Sanchez filed a motion to oppose an independent medical examination (" IME" ). She explained that Caesar's filed a request for an IME with the medical director of the Office of Workers' Compensation Administration and that the medical director set an IME with Dr. Robert Holladay. Ms. Sanchez contended that there is no true dispute between the physician of her choice and Caesar's's choice of physician.[1] She requested that the WCJ find that no IME was needed, or in the alternative, appoint a physician who is fellowship trained in spine surgery and actively treats spine patients, qualifications that Dr. Holladay [49,864 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] lacks.

On October 8, 2013, Caesar's filed a memorandum in support of an IME and contended that the WCJ should not overturn an IME simply because one party does not like the selected physician. It stated that there is a dispute as to Ms. Sanchez's ability to work and averred that to deny or modify an IME would allow for an unjustified manipulation of the system. On October 8, 2013, Caesar's filed an answer. It denied that Ms. Sanchez was temporarily or permanently disabled, denied that she sustained any loss of wage-earning capacity, asserted a credit for any wages earned or capable of being earned by Ms. Sanchez and asserted all rights to deny or limit their liability for payments for medical expenses.[2]

On November 18, 2013, Ms. Sanchez filed a first amended disputed claim for compensation (1008). She stated that her benefits were terminated or reduced on October 17, 2013, and that she is entitled to indemnity benefits, all reasonable and necessary medical treatment, penalties and attorney fees.

On December 2, 2013, Caesar's filed an answer to the first amended disputed claim

Page 1286

for compensation. It incorporated all answers and defenses set forth in the original answer and requested that Ms. Sanchez's claims be dismissed with prejudice.[3]

A trial on the merits began on June 3, 2014. The WCJ noted that the [49,864 La.App. 2 Cir. 3] facts that Ms. Sanchez was employed by Caesar's and that she was in an accident on November 26, 2011, are not disputed. The WCJ stated that the issues for trial were whether Ms. Sanchez is entitled to indemnity benefits after October 17, 2013, and whether she is entitled to lumbar epidural steroid injections (" LESI" ).[4]

Ms. Sanchez testified that she began working as a card dealer at the Horseshoe Casino in 1995 and stopped working there in 2013. She stated that, on November 26, 2011, she slipped and fell while at work and hurt her back. She immediately reported the accident. She further testified that a few days after the accident, she visited her family doctor, who advised her to seek workers' compensation. She continued to work at the casino, but the constant pain from her injuries affected her ability to work. She noted that, at the time of trial, she still was experiencing lower back pain and, periodically, pain in her left leg. She stated that sometimes she could not finish a shift at work because of her pain and that other times she could not go to work. She also stated that she took a lot of medication, including Tramadol. She testified that she saw Dr. John Mays about her injuries and that, in the summer of 2012, he took her off work for two weeks, during which time she received workers' compensation benefits. Ms. Sanchez stated that she had an MRI during these two weeks, and then was released by Dr. Mays to return to work. She testified that she continued to work until May 2013 when she saw Dr. Milan Mody, who placed her on some work restrictions. She further testified that she received workers' compensation [49,864 La.App. 2 Cir. 4] benefits from May 2013 until October 2013, but that her benefits stopped after she saw Dr. Holladay for the IME. Ms. Sanchez stated that, since her benefits stopped, she has not worked anywhere and felt she was unable to work because of pain in her leg and hip. She also testified that Dr. Mody recommended injections for her back, but that they were not approved by the medical director. Ms. Sanchez stated that she also suffered neck and back injuries in a 1999 car accident, but received treatment, after which the problems resolved and she was able to return to work. She further stated that three to four years before the accident at the casino, she was treated for bone density issues and that she has osteopenia.[5] On cross-examination, Ms. Sanchez stated that, when she fell at the casino, she

Page 1287

immediately felt pain in her hip and back. She continued to work, however, and received injections in her back for the pain and participated in physical therapy. She further stated that, in June 2012, she returned to Dr. Mays because she was unable to complete a full work shift. He gave her an injection and sent her home for two weeks. She testified that, during those two weeks, she also had an MRI of her lower back, and it was determined that she had a very mild lumbar spondylosis. She stated that she returned to work in July 2012.[6] She again saw Dr. Mays in September 2012, and he [49,864 La.App. 2 Cir. 5] approved her to continue on full duty at work. She testified that, in March 2013, she inquired with Employee Relations at the casino about work restrictions regarding how long she could sit, but Employee Relations advised her that she could not have work restrictions. Ms. Sanchez further testified that she saw Dr. Mays again in April 2013, whereupon he noted that he did not have an explanation for her discomfort and did not believe there was a need to restrict her at work. She stated that she then retained counsel and began to see Dr. Mody, who gave her restrictions for light duty, which allowed her to alternate between sitting and standing every 30 ...


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