Appeal from Workers Compensation Board.
1. The bright-line last-day-worked rule in a workers compensation case is discussed and applied. The rule is used to establish the date of injury for a repetitive, microtraumatic injury such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Under the rule, the date of injury is the last day worked.
2. The bright-line last-day-worked rule is not limited to situations in which the claimant can no longer continue employment because of a medical condition.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: McANANY, J.
Before MARQUARDT, P.J., McANANY, J., and BRAZIL, S.J.
This appeal centers on the issue of who will pay for Mary Ann Fletcher's work-related injuries: her employer who became self-insured on July 1, 2004, or her employer's insurer who provided workers compensation coverage prior to that date.
Fletcher worked as a custodian for the Blue Valley School District where her job duties included waxing, buffing, mopping and stripping floors; removing tables and desks; cleaning; and other building maintenance. She regularly used vibrating equipment, such as scrubbing and buffing machines, to accomplish these tasks. She began experiencing tingling in her hands in 1998 or 1999, reported it to her supervisor, and sought medical treatment on her own.
In May 2000, Blue Valley referred Fletcher to Dr. John B. Moore, who ultimately performed cubital tunnel release surgery on her elbows. He repaired her right elbow in December 2002 and performed the same surgery on her left elbow the following month. He released her to return to work without restrictions in April 2003. A few months later, Fletcher again experienced tingling, numbness, and related complaints in her hands. She was again examined by Moore, who diagnosed her with carpal tunnel syndrome.
In June 2003, Dr. Edward J. Prostic examined Fletcher and opined that Fletcher's injuries were caused by her custodial work. He rated her as having a 15% functional impairment to the body as a whole.
On November 3, 2003, Moore performed bilateral carpal tunnel releases on both of Fletcher's wrists. He released her to return to work with restrictions on April 2, 2004. Moore rated Fletcher as having a 9% whole person functional impairment, noting that Fletcher's rating would have been 17% but was reduced because her grip strength tests indicated symptom magnification in half the tests.
Her restrictions were lifted and she returned to her regular work duties, causing her again to experience pain in her wrists, for which she received injections by a hand specialist, Dr. Michael Hall. She was again examined by Prostic who opined that she suffered additional injury and increased impairment, resulting in an increased rating of 20% whole person functional impairment.
On July 1, 2004, Blue Valley became self-insured with respect to workers compensation claims. Prior to this time Blue Valley had coverage through the Kansas Association of School Boards Workers Compensation Fund.
Fletcher continued to work with ongoing symptoms until February 8, 2005, her last day of employment. The following day she injured her lower back in an automobile ...