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Lenox v. Central Louisiana Spokes, LLC

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

February 13, 2019


          Appeal from the Office of Workers' Compensation - District No. 2 Parish of Rapides, No. 17-01470 James L. BRaddock, Workers' Compensation Judge.

          George C. Gaiennie, III Chris J. Roy, Sr. Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant Debra S. Lenox.

          John J. Rabalais, Matthew D. Crumhorn, Rabalais Unland, LLP counsel for Defendants/Appellees Zurich American Insurance Company Central Louisiana Spokes, LLC D/B/A Renegade Harley.

          Court composed of Billy Howard Ezell, Van H. Kyzar, and Jonathan W. Perry, Judges.


         Debra Lenox appeals a judgment from the Office of Workers' Compensation which, granted summary judgment in favor of her employer, Central Louisiana Spokes, LLC, d/b/a Renegade Harley, and its workers' compensation insurer, Zurich American Insurance Company. The issue on appeal is whether there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Ms. Lenox's spinal infection was causally related to her work accident.


         Ms. Lenox went to work for Renegade Harley in Alexandria, Louisiana, in April 2014, as a store clerk/manager. On November 22, 2016, around lunchtime, Ms. Lenox went to the back to get a pair of boots for a customer. She located the boots about halfway down a shelf and bent over to get them. When she bent over, she experienced a weird sensation. She brought the boots to the customer and chatted with the customer for a while.

         Ms. Lenox's husband came by the store to meet her for lunch. She told him that her back started "killing" her suddenly and pain was shooting down her right leg. She reported the incident to Gayle Stolzer, the human resources person at Renegade Harley. Ms. Stolzer told Ms. Lenox to go to Kisatchie Medical Center, a walk-in clinic, for treatment. A drug screen was performed, which was negative. She was diagnosed with lumbar strain and prescribed Ansaid and Flexeril. She then went home.

         The next day, Ms. Lenox woke up in excruciating pain and could not get out of bed. An ambulance was called, and Ms. Lenox was taken to St. Francis Cabrini Hospital. A lumbar CT scan revealed changes at L4-5 and L5-S1, with a possible pars defect at L5. Dr. Gregory Dowd, a neurosurgeon, consulted on Ms. Lenox's case. He explained that a pars defect is a defect in the bony bridge connecting the front and back portions of the vertebral body. Dr. Dowd opined that the back and leg pain was suggestive of radiculopathy caused by a compressed nerve. He ordered an MRI, which was performed on November 25, 2016.

         The MRI indicated degenerative disc disease and a small focal disc protrusion at L5-S1. Dr. Dowd testified that the disc protrusion at L5-S1 caused significant impression on the nerve at that level and was likely responsible for the right-sided lumbar radiculopathy. Ms. Lenox received an epidural steroid injection on November 27, 2016. During her stay at St. Francis Cabrini Hospital, Ms. Lenox developed shoulder pain, so a medical neurologist consulted on her case. That doctor opined that Ms. Lenox needed a rheumatology evaluation. She was discharged from the hospital on December 1, 2016.

         Continuing to suffer with pain, Ms. Lenox was taken by ambulance and admitted to Rapides Regional Medical Center on December 3, 2016. Dr. Dowd's associate, Dr. Michael Drerup, saw Ms. Lenox. Dr. Drerup noted his concern for sepsis. An MRI was performed that day with similar findings as the first MRI. Another MRI was performed on December 9, 2016. This time it was performed with and without contrast. The MRI indicated evidence of discitis, osteomyelitis, and possible epidural abscess.

         Dr. Dowd testified that Ms. Lenox developed an infection of the lumbar spine. She also demonstrated weakness in the form of foot drop. He stated that the infection caused left-sided compression whereas the original herniated disc caused right-sided compression. All issues were at the same L5-S1 level. Dr. Dowd performed surgery on December 11, 2016. Dr. Dowd testified that the surgery was targeted primarily to drain the infection and to decompress the affected nerve.

         Ms. Lenox was discharged from Rapides Regional Medical Center on December 20, 2016. She was admitted to Christus Dubuis of Alexandria for long-term care due to the infection. On February 4, 2017, Ms. Lenox was discharged to St. Francis ...

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