Appealed from the Office of Workers' Compensation,
District 1-W Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No.
16-01984 Linda Lea Smith Workers' Compensation Judge
LAW OFFICE OF ALLEN COOPER, Counsel for Appellant LLC J.
Allen Cooper, Jr. Zachary A. Shadinger
HURLBURT, MONROSE & ERNEST, Counsel for Appellees APLC
George D. Ernest III
PITMAN, GARRETT, and McCALLUM, JJ.
claimant, Rhonda Johnson, appeals from a judgment dismissing
her claims for workers' compensation benefits against her
employer, Manitowoc Co., d/b/a Frymaster Co., and its
insurer, Sentry Insurance, A Mutual Company. In written
reasons, the workers' compensation judge
("WCJ") concluded that the claimant, who suffers
from de Quervain's tenosynovitis ("DQT"),
failed to prove that she suffered from an occupational
disease caused by her job. We affirm.
builds commercial frying equipment for companies like
McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's. It operates two
plants in Shreveport and employs about 550 people.
claimant was employed by Frymaster in 1999. She worked in
several different positions, all of which required typing for
several hours per day. After being an order processor for two
to three years, the claimant worked as a Customer Service
Representative I for about two years and a Customer Service
Representative II for seven to eight years. She testified
that she spent about four hours per day typing in these
positions. She was promoted to Customer Service
Representative III in April 2015. She testified that this job
required typing between four and five hours per day. This job
was described at trial by Frymaster's representative as a
"customer interfacing position." It involved taking
calls from dealer groups, taking orders, preparing orders,
and making copies for files. It required her to utilize
email, the telephone, and the fax machine.
about 2002, she was successfully treated for carpal tunnel
syndrome ("CTS") in both hands with conservative
measures that did not include surgery. She did not make a
workers' compensation claim for her CTS. She testified
that in July 2015, she developed pain in her right thumb,
wrist, and hand. She was treated by Dr. Gordon Mead, an
orthopedic surgeon, for these complaints along with claims of
knee and foot pain. In January 2016, he diagnosed her as
suffering from DQT. Her employment with Frymaster was
terminated in early February 2016, shortly after she
contacted the human resources department about her wrist
March 2016, the claimant filed a disputed claim for
compensation with the Office of Workers' Compensation.
She asserted that, due to repetitive keyboard operation
during the last 16 years, she had developed DQT in her right
hand and wrist. She claimed that she had been diagnosed in
August 2015 and was fired when she inquired about
workers' compensation benefits in January 2016. She
sought penalties and attorney fees for the employer's
failure to authorize medical treatment and pay weekly
indemnity benefits. The employer and its insurer answered
with a general denial in April 2016.
was held on July 26, 2017. In addition to the claimant's
medical and personnel records, the parties submitted the
depositions of Dr. Mead, the claimant's treating
physician, and Dr. Kenneth Odinet, the physician chosen by
the employer. Additionally, the claimant testified, as did
John Leslie Baker, Frymaster's human resources director
and its representative at trial.
testimony, the claimant stated that she began feeling pain in
her right thumb in July 2015, that she could not move it, and
that it kept locking up on her. She also described tenderness
that went from over her knuckles on her right hand to midway
between her wrist and elbow. She was referred to Dr. Mead by
a coworker and saw him for the first time in August 2015. She
testified that she last worked at Frymaster on December 18,
2015, and was on vacation until she saw Dr. Mead for the
second time on January 4, 2016. She testified that, after her
appointments on January 4 and 11, 2016, Dr. Mead had her take
a week off of work.
claimant asserted that she never realized that she had a
workers' compensation claim until January 18, 2016, when
it was mentioned by a receptionist at the occupational
therapy clinic to which she had been sent by Dr. Mead. When
the claimant turned in her paperwork, the receptionist asked,
for billing purposes, whether she was there for a
workers' compensation matter. The claimant then made
inquiries to her claims examiner at Matrix Absence
Management, a third-party company used by Frymaster to
process matters arising under the Family and Medical Leave
Act. Next, she contacted Frymaster's human resources
department. Subsequently, she received a letter terminating
her employment with Frymaster in early February 2016.
explained the steps of Frymaster's progressive
disciplinary process, which required two written warnings, a
suspension, and then termination. He testified that the
claimant had received written warnings for minor matters and
had been suspended without pay for the first week of December
2015 for her role in running an illegal football betting pool
at work. (The other two participants, who had larger roles in
the enterprise, were fired.) Thus, he testified, when it was
learned that she ...