Tyler v. Douglas Dynamics, Inc.
Charter Oak Fire Insurance
October 29, 2021
CategoriesPre-Existing Injury Mental Stress Injury Total Incapacity Mental Stress Injury Pre-Existing Injury Total Incapacity
burden of proof
Summary from the Troubh Heisler Attorneys
Ryan Tyler v. Douglas Dynamics (21-28, attached) – Tyler is a welder who injured his back at work and had ongoing pain and left leg radiculopathy. Tyler also had prior depression and anxiety that now required active treatment. Tyler filed petitions requesting payment of total incapacity benefits, physical and mental health bills, and vocational rehabilitation. Douglas argued Tyler could find work without VR and had the same mental issues before.
Dr. Donovan’s IME report supported injury causation and total incapacity, but at deposition he admitted it was “possible” for Mr. Tyler to try a sedentary job. Judge Elwin found Tyler had satisfied his burden of proving a work injury, total incapacity, and injury-related aggravation of his pre-existing mental condition. She also found he qualified for VR, and she granted his petitions accordingly.
Douglas appealed, but the appellate panel found no errors and upheld the award. They held that the ALJ had competent evidence to support her finding of total disability, citing Grant (1978) that ”speculative language regarding work capacity was ‘a far cry from saying ‘in my opinion, he does have work capacity.’”
Douglas argued that Tyler had psych treatment shortly before the injury, so therefore the ALJ based her decision on incorrect facts. The panel said she was aware of the pre-existing condition, so she knew the facts. They held that the post-injury LCSW records were competent evidence that Tyler’s increased anxiety and depression were caused by his ongoing pain and incapacity from the work injury.
Douglas argued that total incapacity precluded the VR evaluation, but the panel held that § 217(1) requires only that “as a result of injury the employee is unable to perform work for which the employee has previous training or experience.” The ALJ found it “unlikely that [Tyler] can return to his career in the welding trade,” so he qualifies despite his total disability.