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Hamilton v. GCA Services Group, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

February 21, 2018

ELLA HAMILTON
v.
GCA SERVICES GROUP, INC.

         Appealed from the Office of Workers' Compensation District 05 Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Case No. 17-01201 Pamela A. Moses-Laramore, Workers' Compensation Judge

          Lindsay F. Louapre JoAnn T. Hymel Brown Sims New Orleans, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/ Appellant GCA Services Group, Inc.

          Ted Williams Baton Rouge, Louisiana Counsel for Plaintiff/ Appellee Ella Hamilton

          BEFORE: McCLENDON, WELCH, AND THERIOT, JJ.

          THERIOT, J.

         GCA Services Group, Inc. ("Appellant") appeals the judgment of the Office of Workers' Compensation District 05 granting Ella Hamilton's ("Appellee") motion to limit the scope of an independent medical examination ("IME"). For the following reasons, we reverse the portion of the judgment ordering the independent medical examiner not to address maximum medical improvement. We affirm the portion of the judgment ordering the independent medical examiner not to address medical condition diagnosis, or causation.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On May 20, 2015, Appellee suffered injuries to her neck and shoulders while moving trash bags into a dumpster. At the time of her accident, Appellee was in the course and scope of her employment with Appellant as a custodian. Following the injuries, Appellee filed a workers' compensation claim. Appellant alleges that it has paid indemnity and medical benefits to and on behalf of Appellee in connection with Appellee's workers' compensation claim.

         The dispute on appeal arises from the conflicting opinions of two doctors who examined Appellee's injuries. The first doctor is Appellee's treating neurosurgeon, Dr. Charles Bowie. Following an examination, Dr. Bowie diagnosed Appellee with cervical disc disorder and spinal stenosis and recommended C4-C7 cervical fusion surgery as treatment. At a rehabilitation conference on January 24, 2017, Dr. Bowie again recommended C4-C7 cervical fusion surgery and opined that Appellee's injuries rendered her unable to work. Dr. Bowie further stated that Appellee's injuries were likely an aggravation of pre-existing cervical disease and that Appellee was at risk of neurologic decline if she suffered further injury. In regard to maximum medical improvement, Dr. Bowie stated that an actual or anticipated maximum medical improvement date was still to be decided.

         The second doctor is Dr. David Ferachi, an orthopedic surgeon selected by Appellant. Dr. Ferachi found that the incident in question aggravated Appellee's pre-existing condition of cervical spondylosis and lumbar spondylosis. Dr. Ferachi also opined that Appellee could return to work as a custodian if she did so under the restriction of not lifting more than twenty pounds. At a rehabilitation conference on February 2, 2017, Dr. Ferachi reiterated that Appellee could perform light work and found that Appellee should have reached maximum medical improvement three to six months after the injury.

         Because Dr. Bowie and Dr. Ferachi gave differing opinions as to Appellee's ability to work and maximum medical improvement, Appellant filed a request for an IME pursuant to La. R.S 23:1123. OWCA-Medical Services granted this request and scheduled an IME with Dr. Thad Broussard.

         On February 22, 2017, Appellee filed a motion to limit the scope of the IME. Appellee specifically requested that the workers' compensation judge limit the scope of the IME to Appellee's capacity to work. Appellee also asked the workers' compensation judge to prohibit the independent medical examiner from addressing any other issues, including Appellee's medical condition, causation, maximum medical improvement, and whether medical treatment is reasonable and necessary. In response, Appellant argued that maximum medical improvement is a component of, and is directly related to, Appellee's condition and should be addressed in the IME.

         On May 31, 2017, the workers' compensation judge granted Appellee's motion to limit the scope of the IME. Specifically, the workers' compensation judge ordered the independent medical examiner, Dr. Broussard, to only address Appellee's capacity to work and ordered Dr. Broussard not to address any other issues including medical condition, diagnosis, causation, and maximum ...


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