NIKKI I. BROWN
ENTERTAINMENT PARTNERS, LLC AND AIG
APPEAL FROM THE OFFICE OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION DISTRICT
9 STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 16-7822 HONORABLE ELIZABETH C.
LANIER, JUDGE PRESIDING
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, NIKKI I. BROWN
Christine L. DeSue COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE,
ENTERTAINMENT PARTNERS AND INSURANCE COMPANY OF THE STATE OF
PENNSYLVANIA Jeffrey C. Napolitano
composed of Judges Jude G. Gravois, Robert A. Chaisson, and
Hans J. Liljeberg
J. LILJEBERG JUDGE.
Nikki Brown, appeals the workers' compensation
court's judgment which awarded her medical benefits for
injuries to her left knee, left ankle, and left calf, but did
not award any benefits for her back pain, right knee injury,
or increased anxiety, depression, and blood pressure. For the
following reasons, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Brown suffered various injuries as a result of an accident
that occurred on August 31, 2015, while she was working as a
makeup artist on a movie for defendant, Entertainment
Partners, L.L.C. ("EP"). Ms. Brown contends that
while on a movie set early that morning, she stepped into a
pothole and twisted her left foot into her body, injuring her
left ankle, left calf, left knee, and aggravating her
pre-existing back condition. Ms. Brown also contends that she
suffered a right knee injury and increased blood pressure,
anxiety, and depression as a result of the accident.
about December 15, 2016, Ms. Brown filed a Disputed Claim for
Compensation against EP and its insurer, AIG. The matter came
before the workers' compensation court for trial on the
merits on November 13, 2017. At trial, the parties stipulated
that Ms. Brown was employed by EP and was injured in a
work-related accident on August 31, 2015. They further
stipulated that Ms. Brown injured her left ankle and left
calf during the accident. Defendants disputed that any other
injuries or damages were caused by this accident.
trial, Ms. Brown and her mother testified, and numerous
exhibits, including medical records and several depositions,
were admitted into evidence. In addition to testifying about
the August 31, 2015 accident, Ms. Brown also testified
regarding a prior work-related injury that she sustained in
2011 when she fell out of a van on another movie set. Ms.
Brown suffered from back pain as a result of that accident,
and she treated primarily with an orthopedist, Dr. Andrew
Todd, and a pain management specialist, Dr. Paul Hubbell. Dr.
Todd recommended surgery at L3-4 and L5-S1. Ms. Brown
testified that she continued to work after the 2011 accident,
albeit with pain, that she still had a "decent"
quality of life, and that she could still perform daily
Brown received benefits for some time after the 2011 accident
and she settled her claims arising from that accident in July
of 2015. A few weeks later, the instant accident occurred on
August 31, 2015. Ms. Brown did not seek medical treatment on
the day of this accident. Rather, she noticed that her leg
was swollen the next day, and a "medic" on the
movie set told her to go to an urgent care clinic for an
examination. On that date, September 1, 2015, Ms. Brown
sought medical treatment at an urgent care clinic, Total
Occupational Medicine, where she complained of swelling in
her left knee and calf. She did not complain of pain in her
right knee or back. A few days later, on September 4, 2015,
Ms. Brown saw her primary care physician, Dr. Patricia
Gendusa, and she again complained of left leg pain and left
knee swelling. The records do not indicate that Ms. Brown
complained of right knee or lower back pain at that time.
Brown testified that after the August 31, 2015 accident, her
quality of life deteriorated and she was unable to perform
chores or participate in many activities. Ms. Brown stated
that she continued to work after this accident, because EP
made accommodations for her. However, she had surgery on her
left knee in December of 2015, and could not work for some
time thereafter. Ms. Brown was paid indemnity benefits while
recovering from this surgery.
Brown admitted that she had back pain prior to the August 31,
2015 accident, but she stated that it was different from the
pain she had after this accident. She testified that she did
not notice that her back pain was different for some time
after the accident, because she was focused on her
excruciating left leg pain. Ms. Brown also testified
regarding a subsequent accident that occurred in August of
2016. Ms. Brown stated that she was getting out of a van on a
movie set when she "came down too hard" on her
right side and heard a "pop." She indicated that
this is when her right knee pain began.
November of 2015, Ms. Brown saw Dr. Deryk Jones, an expert in
orthopedic surgery, complaining of left knee pain. Dr. Jones
diagnosed a medial meniscus tear in her left knee, a ruptured
Baker's cyst by her left knee, and a left ankle sprain.
He examined her right knee at this visit and found it to be
within normal limits. He performed surgery on her left knee
on December 23, 2015, and she attended physical therapy
deposition, Dr. Jones testified that Ms. Brown did not
complain of back pain until July 11, 2016, when she reported
lumbar and lower back pain, and left sciatica pain. Dr. Jones
testified that she first reported right knee pain on August
8, 2016, when she called his office and spoke with a nurse,
indicating that she felt a "pop" in her right knee
while getting out of a van at work. He performed surgery on
her right knee for medial and lateral meniscus tears on
November 8, 2016.
Jones referred Ms. Brown to Dr. Eric Royster, a pain
management specialist, and she first saw him in June of 2016.
According to Dr. Royster, Ms. Brown reported that she had
severe pain in her lower back and left knee. She reported
that her left knee injury occurred at work in August of 2015
and that she had suffered from back pain for four years.
After examining Ms. Brown, Dr. Royster concluded that she had
chronic knee pain, sacroiliitis, low back pain, and muscle
spasm. When he saw her in September of 2016, Ms. Brown
reported that she had fallen onto her right knee a couple of
weeks prior to this visit. When asked if he had an opinion as
to whether the right knee injury had any causal relationship
to the August 31, 2015 accident, Dr. Royster indicated that
he did not believe so, though he agreed it is possible she
could have torn the meniscus in her right knee due to
compensating for injuries to her left leg. His records
indicate that she had right knee surgery in November of 2016.
At her December 2016 visit, based on the history provided by
Ms. Brown, Dr. Royster believed her lower back complaints
were related to the August 31, 2015 accident, because the
radicular symptoms, nerve impingement, and radiating pain
into the leg had recurred at the time of that injury.
However, he admitted that if it was documented that she had
radicular pain prior to the August 2015 accident, it could
affect his opinion.
Ralph Katz, an expert in orthopedic surgery, testified that
he saw Ms. Brown on September 14, 2016, for an evaluation.
Ms. Brown told him that before her left knee surgery, she had
soreness in her lower back, which she had typically had in
the past, but she started having more pain in her left
buttock area, going to the left knee, after she had surgery
on her left knee. Ms. Brown reported that she never had any
issues with sciatica or left leg pain prior to this accident.
Ms. Brown also indicated that prior to this accident, she had
not had treatment for her lower back since August 2014 when
she treated with Dr. Hubbell. Dr. Katz's examination of
Ms. Brown revealed minimal tenderness in her lower back, with
pain in her left buttock area going into her hamstring and
calf. Dr. Katz did not examine her right knee, and he was not
aware of any complaints regarding her right side.
examined Ms. Brown, Dr. Katz did not have any records of Dr.
Hubbell's treatment of Ms. Brown prior to August 2015
accident. Based on information from Dr. Hubbell's records
prior to the accident indicating that she had radiating pain
to the legs bilaterally and that her pain was "under
poor control," Dr. Katz testified that she may have had
continued ongoing leg pain at the time of the accident and
that her back complaints, sciatica complaints, and buttock
pain preexisted the August 31, 2015 accident. He stated that
"more than likely" he would not relate back, leg,
and buttock pain to the August 2015 accident.
Brown saw Dr. Samar Shamieh, an expert in orthopedic spine
surgery, on September 12, 2016. At this visit, she reported
lower back pain with radiation down her left lower extremity
and informed him that Dr. Jones had performed left knee
surgery. She also reported that she had seen Dr. Royster for
pain and he had given her an epidural steroid injection. Dr.
Shamieh recommended a laminectomy at L4-L5-S1, which he
stated was at a different area than where Dr. Todd
recommended surgery prior to the August 31, 2015 accident.
Thus, he would relate her back pain to this accident based on
the information he was provided. However, Dr. Shamieh agreed