from the Office of Workers' Compensation, District 1E
Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana Trial Court No. 1300674 Brenza
I. Jones Workers' Compensation Judge
R. HUCKABAY, II Counsel for Appellant.
GREGORY G. ELIAS Counsel for Appellee.
WILLIAMS, LOLLEY and GARRETT, JJ.
workers' compensation case, the employer, the Town of
Grambling, refused to pay for the claimant's recommended
surgery. The workers' compensation judge
("WCJ") rendered judgment in favor of the claimant,
ordering the Town of Grambling to pay for the claimant's
surgery. For the following reasons, we affirm.
claimant, Darren Crawford, was employed as a sanitation
worker for the Town of Grambling. On October 9, 2001, the
claimant was injured on the job when he lifted a garbage can.
The claimant testified that he reported to his treating
physician that he was experiencing pain in his right arm,
neck and back.
weeks after the accident, the claimant was referred to Dr.
Michael Ehrlich, a neurologist, for treatment. Initially, the
claimant's cervical complaints were the sole focus of his
medical treatment. Over time, the claimant was evaluated and
treated by a number of physicians, including Dr. David
Cavanaugh, a neurosurgeon. In a document dated May 29, 2003,
Dr. Cavanaugh noted the claimant's cervical complaints
and added that the claimant was experiencing "some low
back pain with walking." In a reported dated September
25, 2003, Dr. Cavanaugh noted that the claimant "states
when he is walking, he'll have some increased low back
pain, and wonders if that is connected to his neck."
2003, the claimant was referred to another neurosurgeon, Dr.
Anil Nanda. Dr. Nanda recommended that the claimant undergo a
cervical laminectomy. However, the claimant declined to do
so, opting, instead, to continue conservative treatment.
the claimant's lumbar issues worsened. The claimant
testified that he informed Dr. Ehrlich that he was
experiencing back pain; however, Dr. Ehrlich did not note the
claimant's lumbar complaints in the medical records until
2005, when, according to the claimant, his back pain
substantially worsened. More specifically, on August 3, 2005,
the claimant stated that he awakened with severe back pain.
He presented to Dr. Ehrlich; he reported that he had not
lifted any heavy objects or injured himself in any way.
Initially, Dr. Ehrlich considered the complaint of back pain
to be "acute" and/or "age related."
However, he later concluded that the claimant's lumbar
complaints were "definitely related" to
employer initially paid for medical treatment related to the
claimant's lumbar complaints. However, in 2008, a new
claims adjuster, Della Hildebrand, was assigned to the
claimant's case. Hildebrand scrutinized the
claimant's medical records and concluded that his lumbar
issues were not related to his work injury. Hildebrand
instructed the case manager "to inform Dr. Nanda that
[the claimant's] lumbar issues were not related to the
work accident." Consequently, the employer ceased
payments for medical treatment related to the claimant's
the years, the claimant continued to be evaluated by Dr.
Nanda at intermittent intervals. Although Dr. Nanda had
recommended a cervical laminectomy, he noted that the
claimant could continue conservative treatment until he could
no longer tolerate the symptoms. In 2007, Dr. Nanda began
evaluating the claimant for both cervical and lumbar
complaints. In 2012, Dr. Nanda recommended that the claimant
undergo both cervical and lumbar laminectomies. Again, the
claimant opted to continue conservative treatment instead. As
the claimant's symptoms worsened, he decided to undergo
the cervical and lumbar surgeries. The employer agreed to pay
for the cervical surgery, but denied payment for the lumbar
January 25, 2013, the claimant filed a disputed claim for
compensation, seeking a judgment compelling the employer to
pay for the lumbar surgery. Prior to the trial, the parties
stipulated as to the following facts: the claimant sustained
a compensable injury on October 9, 2001; the claimant
sustained cervical injuries as a result of the accident;
surgery for the cervical injuries was recommended; the
claimant elected not to have the cervical surgery at that
time; the employer did not deny payment for the cervical
injuries; the employer initially paid for the treatment of
the claimant's lumbar complaints; the employer stopped
payment for further treatment when it determined ...