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MICHAEL GREENE Vs. TOWN OF LAKE ARTHUR
Case Number: WCA-0019-0232
Judge: Candyce Perret
Court: STATE OF LOUISIANA COURT OF APPEAL, THIRD CIRCUIT
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Michael Greene, claimant, was injured in a work-related accident on
September 23, 2008. Mr. Greene filed a 1008 Disputed Claim for Compensation
thereafter. The case was stayed pursuant to a Joint Motion and Order to Stay dated
April 15, 2014. On December 14, 2017, the stay was lifted and the 1008 was
dismissed without prejudice. The December 14, 2017 Judgment also permitted
either party to file another 1008 in the future.
On March 3, 2018, Mr. Greene’s treating physician, Dr. Mark McDonnell,
requested a psychological evaluation for a discography/spine surgery. Employer
denied the treatment “pending second medical opinion [(“SMO”)] with Dr. [Fraser]
Garr[,]” Employer’s choice of orthopedist. Dr. Garr last evaluated Mr. Greene on
May 12, 2014, and produced a report opining that Mr. Greene did not require
further surgical intervention for his neck or low back. Instead, Dr. Garr opined that
Mr. Greene was at maximum medical improvement. Dr. Garr’s 2014 report was
attached to Employer’s denial.
Due to Dr. Garr’s death, Employer selected a new orthopedist, Dr.
Alexander Michael, and scheduled an appointment for Mr. Greene on April 12,
2018. The appointment was noticed by certified mail to Mr. Greene’s attorney and
dated March 13, 2018. Mr. Greene failed to appear at the appointment. The
appointment was rescheduled for May 10, 2018, and notice was delivered via
certified mail to Mr. Greene’s attorney on April 20, 2018. In response to Mr.
Greene’s May 2018 inquiry regarding Dr. Michael’s licensing, Employer faxed Dr.
Michael’s curriculum vitae to counsel on May 4, 2018, prior to the appointment.
Mr. Greene failed to appear for the second scheduled appointment with Dr.
Michael on May 10, 2018. The appointment was rescheduled a third time for July
10, 2018, notice being delivered via certified mail on June 4, 2018. On June 8,
2018, Mr. Greene’s counsel requested additional information from Employer
regarding Dr. Michael. Employer provided the requested information on July 5,
Before the third rescheduled appointment, Dr. McDonnell filed a second
request for treatment around June 21, 2018, this time for approval of a “PLIF L4-5
[posterior lumbar interbody fusion]1, intraoperative epidural injection, post-op
bracing, [and] spinal implants.” Attached to the request were Dr. McDonnell’s
records as well as an evaluation by Dr. Jean Boudreaux, a licensed psychologist.
Dr. Boudreaux opined on May 1, 2018: “Pre-surgical/preprocedural, psychological
prognosis is poor at this time, dominated by concerns with regard to ETOH [ethyl
alcohol] use. I recommend psychotherapy and consideration of recovery meetings.
From a psychological perspective, surgical delay appears indicated and it may be
advisable for him to be cleared by an addictionologist.” On May 8, 2018, Dr.
Boudreaux further advised:
1 On a separate form, Dr. McDonnell specifically requests a “Posterior lumbar decompression, instrumentation, and fusion L4-5” as well as “Intraoperative epidural injection[,]” “Postoperative bracing[,]” and “Spinal implants[.]”
[I]t is my impression that if he [Mr. Greene] does totally d/c ETOH as he claims he will, I believe medical professionals could verify this, and that would meet my concerns as well. That is, if it were medically documented he is free from ETOH, that would obviate the need for an addictionology consultation in my opinion.
Employer denied the second request for treatment on June 25, 2018, “pending the
SMO scheduled for 7/10/18[.]”
Based on Employer’s denial, on June 27, 2018, before the third re-scheduled
SMO appointment, Mr. Greene filed a 1009 Disputed Claim for Medical Treatment
requesting review by the Medical Director. Employer responded and provided the
Medical Director with Dr. Garr’s 2014 SMO report, Dr. Boudreaux’s psychiatric
report, and Mr. Greene’s last MRI that Employer had on file. Employer also
advised the Medical Director that a SMO appointment was scheduled for July 10,
In the interim, Mr. Greene failed to appear a third time for the scheduled
SMO on July 10, 2018. Thereafter, the appointment was rescheduled for August
17, 2018, and notice received on July 18, 2018.
However, prior to the fourth rescheduled SMO, the Medical Director issued
an opinion on July 18, 2018, approving the PLIF surgery that Dr. McDonnell
requested. The Medical Director reviewed the records submitted and concluded
that the treatment requested was covered by the medical treatment schedule.
Specifically, the Medical Director noted: “The patient has radicular pain and
failure of conservative therapy per the guidelines.”
Employer appealed the Medical Director’s decision on July 27, 2018, by
filing a 1008 Disputed Claim for Compensation, along with filing a motion to
compel claimant to submit to a medical examination. The motion to compel was
dismissed after Mr. Greene appeared for the fourth scheduled appointment with Dr.
Michael. In its 1008, Employer argued that the Medical Director’s opinion was
premature, as it was made before the SMO was obtained, despite being informed
that said appointment was scheduled. Employer argued that in rendering his
opinion, the Medical Director deprived Employer of its statutory right to a SMO
under La.R.S. 23:1121.
After obtaining the SMO, and based on Dr. Michael’s opinion, Employer
asserted that the SMO contradicted Dr. McDonnell’s opinion for surgery.
Therefore, Employer also filed a request for a court-appointed independent medical
examiner (“IME”) pursuant to La.R.S. 23:1124.1. Mr. Greene opposed the request,
arguing that the issues are rightfully decided by the Medical Treatment Guidelines,
not by an IME.
Both the appeal of the Medical Director’s decision and the motion for an
IME were heard on December 19, 2018. The WCJ denied both, finding that
Employer failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the Medical
Director’s decision was not in accordance with the Medical Treatment Guidelines.
Regarding the SMO procedural issue, the WCJ stated:
A review of the record and the evidence that was presented here today is that the SMO report was submitted after the decision by the medical director was made, and in the content of the SMO report as well as arguments of counsel, the Court here finds that there is no clear and convincing evidence to overturn the medical director’s decision. In fact, the problem that occurred here has not been addressed in the medical guidelines, so I can only impose and follow the law that is on the record as it is now, and the evidence that was presented today does not rise to that clear and convincing, which I must have . . . .
Thereafter, the WCJ ruled on the motion to compel an IME:
I’m going to deny that request also because the psychiatrist said that his would [sic] be poor and he recommended certain things that should be down [sic], but he also said that it was a medical decision. The SMO never pointed to anything in the medical guidelines that
would prohibit the medical necessity for the surgery and, therefore, based upon that, I am going to deny both the appeal and the request for an IME.
This appeal from the WCJ’s denials now follows. Employer assigns two
assignments of error:
I. Whether the WCJ committed error in failing to find that the Medical Director’s premature decision was in violation of the employer’s statutory right to obtain a second medical opinion for submission prior to decision; whether the WCJ used an inappropriate standard of review on Employer’s appeal; and whether the WCJ committed error in refusing to grant Employer’s request for courtappointed IME physicians;
II. Whether the Medical Director’s premature decision to approve a surgery, despite [Employer] advising that an SMO appointment was pending which would directly address the issue of medical necessity, deprived [Employer] of its statutory right to have the SMO examination to allow the Medical Director to base his decision on medical necessity with all information required by law.
Employer also requests that this court remand the case to obtain an IME and to re
submit all medical evidence to the Medical Director for review and ruling.
STANDARD OF REVIEW:
“Factual findings in workers’ compensation cases are subject to the manifest
error or clearly wrong standard of appellate review.” Banks v. Industr. Roofing &
Sheet Metal Works, Inc., 96-2840, p. 7 (La. 7/1/97), 696 So.2d 551, 556. The
manifest error standard is also used when reviewing the WCJ’s judgment affirming
or reversing the Medical Director’s decision. Lowery v. Jena Nursing and Rehab.,
14-1106 (La.App. 3 Cir. 4/1/15), 160 So.3d 620. “The manifest error standard
requires that we review the record in its entirety to determine not whether the WCJ
was wrong, but whether the record reflects a reasonable basis for the WCJ’s
decision.” Vital v. Landmark of Lake Charles, 13-842, pp. 2-3 (La.App. 3 Cir.
2/12/14), 153 So.3d 1017, 1019. “However, where legal error interdicts the fact
finding process, the manifest error standard is no longer appropriate[,] and the
appellate court will conduct a de novo review.” White v. Fuel Plus, LLC, 17-125,
p. 4 (La.App. 3 Cir. 10/4/17), 229 So.3d 539, 542 (quoting Shailow v. Gulf Coast
Social Servs., 15-91, p. 4 (La.App. 3 Cir. 6/10/15), 166 So.3d 1239, 1244, writs
denied, 15-1336, 15-1355 (La. 10/9/15), 178 So.3d 1002 and 1003).
At issue in this case is an employer’s entitlement to a SMO and the process
once a denial of a request for authorization is appealed to the Medical Director.
Employer argues that the standard applied by the WCJ in reviewing the Medical
Director’s decision should not have been clear and convincing, and that the WCJ
should have reversed the Medical Director’s decision because it deprived
Employer its statutory right to a SMO. On the other hand, Mr. Greene asserts that
the Medical Director’s decision was to be based on the Medical Treatment
Guidelines. If the Medical Treatment Guidelines approved the recommended
surgery for Mr. Greene’s complaints, the Medical Director was correct in his
approval and the WCJ was correct in finding no clear and convincing error in the
Medical Director’s decision. The legislature has spoken on both of these issues—
requesting treatment authorization and an employer’s entitlement to a SMO.
In order to deliver “medical and surgical treatment, hospital care, and other
health care provider services” in “an efficient and timely manner to injured
employees[,]” the legislature established the medical treatment schedule. La.R.S.
23:1203.1(L). The procedure to request authorization for medical care is
J. (1) After a medical provider has submitted to the payor the request for authorization and the information required by the Louisiana Administrative Code, Title 40, Chapter 27, the payor shall
notify the medical provider of their action on the request within five business days of receipt of the request. If any dispute arises after January 1, 2011, as to whether the recommended care, services, or treatment is in accordance with the medical treatment schedule, or whether a variance from the medical treatment schedule is reasonably required as contemplated in Subsection I of this Section, any aggrieved party shall file, within fifteen calendar days, an appeal with the office of workers’ compensation administration medical director or associate medical director on a form promulgated by the assistant secretary. The medical director or associate medical director shall render a decision as soon as is practicable, but in no event, not more than thirty calendar days from the date of filing.
. . . .
K. After the issuance of the decision by the medical director or associate medical director of the office, any party who disagrees with the decision may then appeal by filing a “Disputed Claim for Compensation”, which is LWC Form 1008, within forty-five days of the date of the issuance of the decision. The decision may be overturned when it is shown, by clear and convincing evidence, the decision of the medical director or associate medical director was not in accordance with the provisions of this Section.
Similarly, the Louisiana Administrative Code, Title 40, also explains the
review process for obtaining medical treatment authorization. Specifically, the
purpose of LAC 40:I.2715 is to:
facilitate the management of medical care delivery, assure an orderly and timely process in the resolution of care-related disputes; identify the required medical documentation to be provided to the carrier/selfinsured employer to initiate a request for authorization as provided in [La.]R.S. 23:1203(J); and provide for uniform forms, timeframes, and terms for suspension of prior authorization process, withdrawal of request for authorization, authorization, denial, and dispute resolution in accordance with [La.]R.S. 23:1203.1.
Once a provider requests authorization for medical treatment on Form 1010,
the employer/insurer must “determine whether the request for authorization is in
accordance with the medical treatment schedule” and may approve, deny, or
approve with modification, wherein the employer would decide to “request a
variance from the medical director.” LAC 40:I.2715(G)(1) and LAC
40:I.2715(B)(3)(d). If the employer/insurer denies the request, it must include “a
summary of reasons why the request for authorization is not in accordance with the
medical treatment schedule.” LAC 40:I.2715(G)(1)(c). If denied, the claimant is
encouraged to contact the employer/insurer to discuss reconsideration of the denial.
A claimant may seek review of a denial of a request for authorization with
the Medical Director by filing Form 1009. LAC 40:I.2715(J). The claimant must
include the reason for the request, a copy of the Form 1010 showing the history of
communication with the employer, and all information previously submitted to the
employer. LAC 40:I.2715(J)(2). In response, within five days of receipt of the
1009, an employer/insurer “shall provide to the medical director . . . any evidence
it thinks pertinent to the decision regarding the request being denied[.]” LAC
40:I.2715(J)(5)(a). Part of this evidence may be the SMO, which an employer is
entitled to obtain under LAC 40:I.2711 when surgery is recommended. See
Gilliam v. Brooks Heating & Air Conditioning, 49,161 (La.App. 2 Cir. 7/16/14),
146 So.3d 734.
The Medical Director shall then render a decision within thirty days of
receipt of the 1009. The Medical Director considers the evidence submitted by the
claimant as well as the employer’s evidence, if submitted within five business days.
LAC 40:I.2715(J)(5)(b). The decision will include a determination of:
[W]hether the request for authorization is medically necessary and is:
i. in accordance with the medical treatment schedule: or
ii. in accordance with [La.]R.S. 23:1203.1(D) if such request is not covered by the medical treatment schedule, or
iii. whether the health care provider or claimant demonstrates by a preponderance of the scientific medical evidence that a variance from the medical treatment schedule is reasonably required. The decision of the medical director shall be provided in writing to the health care provider, claimant, claimant’s attorney if one exists, and Carrier/Self-Insured Employer.
The Medical Director must review any claims submitted for “medical
necessity and compliance with the medical treatment schedule and the provisions
of [La].R.S. 23:1201.1.” LAC 40:I.2717(D). Louisiana Administrative Code
40:I.2717 (footnote omitted) further explains:
Medical necessity implies the use of technologies [FN1] services, or supplies provided by a hospital, physician, or other provider that is determined to be:
a. medically appropriate for the symptoms and diagnosis or treatment of the work-related illness or injury;
b. provided for the diagnosis or the direct care and treatment of the patient’s illness or injury;
c. in accordance with the medical treatment schedule and the provisions of R.S. 23:1203.1; and
d. not primarily for the convenience of the patient, patient’s family, practitioner or provider; and
e. the most appropriate level of service that can be provided to the patient.
2. Additional Medical Record Information. It is the responsibility of the claimant and provider to furnish all medical documentation needed by the carrier/self-insured employer to determine if the injury or illness is job related and if the services are medically necessary for the condition of the claimant (e.g., physician office record, hospital medical record, doctor’s orders, treatment plan, vital signs, lab data, test results, nurses’ notes, progress notes).
Thereafter, any aggrieved party may appeal the Medical Director’s decision to the
WCJ by filing Form 1008.
Another section of the administrative code deals with the review process for
pre-admission certification, which is to be done prior to admission to the hospital
in non-emergent circumstances. See LAC 40:I.2705. The care provider or
claimant is required to call the carrier and provide the information listed in LAC
40:I.2705(C), which is the required information referenced to as “Chapter 27” in
La.R.S. 23:1203.1(J)(1). The carrier is tasked with using registered nurses to
initially review proposed hospitalizations. LAC 40:I.2705(D)(6)(a). The carrier is
to respond to the requester verbally within two calendar days and with a written
response following within five calendar days. LAC 40:I.2705(D)(6)(b). During
this review, review nurses should check for compliance with a second surgical
opinion. LAC 40:I.2705(D)(8).
It is not disputed that Mr. Greene, after receiving Employer’s denial of Dr.
McDonnell’s authorization request for the PLIF surgery, properly filed a 1009 with
the Medical Director. Employer also submitted additional information to the
Medical Director. Additionally, this Court notes that the Medical Director
rendered a decision in accordance with the timeframe set forth by the statutes
What Employer argues is that, due to Mr. Greene’s failure to appear at three
scheduled SMO appointments prior to the Medical Director’s decision, Employer
was not able to submit the SMO to the Medical Director; thus, Employer was
denied its right to a SMO. Under LAC 40:I.2711, the insurer/employer is entitled
to a SMO when surgery has been recommended by claimant’s treating physician.
Specifically, LAC 40:I.2711 states:
A. When surgery has been recommended by the treating physician, the carrier/self-insured employer is entitled to obtain a second professional opinion from a physician chosen by the
carrier/self-insured employer. Regardless of the second surgical opinion outcome, the claimant remains free to elect not to undergo surgery after the consultation. The carrier/self-insured employer is responsible for informing the claimant when a second surgical opinion is required and for referring the claimant to a second surgical opinion physician. . . .
B. Second Surgical Opinion Procedures
1. The following is a list of surgical procedures that usually require a second opinion.
Spinal Surgery Foot Surgery Gastrectomy Hemorrhoidectomy Coronary Artery Bypass Varicose Vein Surgery Knee Surgery Traumatic Cataract Surgery Nasal Surgery Joint Replacement
Louisiana Administrative Code Title 40, Part I, Chapter 27, Section 2703
also provides for a “second surgical opinion[,]” which is a managed care activity
required by the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act that “enable[s] claimants to
receive a consultation from a second physician before undergoing specified
surgical procedures.” LAC 40:I.2703. Further “[m]anaged care activities are
defined as a set of coordinated cost and utilization management activities by the
carrier/self-insured employer to assure appropriate payment for health care services
rendered to employees eligible for workers’ compensation benefits[.]” Id.
Louisiana Revised Statutes 23:1121(A) also states:
A. An injured employee shall submit himself to an examination by a duly qualified medical practitioner provided and paid for by the employer, as soon after the accident as demanded, and from time to time thereafter as often as may be reasonably necessary and at reasonable hours and places, during the pendency of his claim for compensation or during the receipt by him of payments under this Chapter. The employer or his workers’ compensation carrier shall not require the employee to be examined by more than one duly qualified medical practitioner in any one field or specialty unless prior consent has been obtained from the employee.
See also Walker v. Summit, 14-676 (La.App. 3 Cir. 11/5/14), 150 So.3d 962.
In this case, Mr. Greene did not appear for three scheduled SMO
appointments, two before Dr. McDonnell filed the 1009 dispute with the Medical
Director and one before the Medical Director rendered a decision. By not
appearing for these appointments, but then filing a Form 1009, Mr. Greene
effectively deprived Employer of obtaining the SMO it was entitled to when
surgery was recommended. Had Mr. Greene timely submitted to the SMO,
Employer may have approved the requested treatment with possible modifications,
submitted the SMO to the Medical Director for consideration, and/or requested a
variance for the treatment from the Medical Director depending on what was
recommended by the SMO.
Coincidently, Mr. Greene finally appeared for the SMO appointment after
the Medical Director rendered a decision, after Employer appealed that decision to
the WCJ, and after Employer sought a motion to compel Mr. Greene to appear for
the fourth scheduled appointment with Dr. Michael.
Mr. Greene was aware that Dr. McDonnell’s request for authorization was
denied pending the SMO because Employer specifically indicated such in both its
response to the March 2018 request and the June 2018 request. The employee has
a right to appeal to the Medical Director and the timeline for that process once
initiated is statutorily set forth. However, under this particular set of facts, wherein
Employer was denying treatment pending the SMO which it was entitled to under
LAC 40:I.2711 and the reason the SMO was still pending was Mr. Greene’s failure
to appear three times, we find it was legal error for the WCJ to affirm the Medical
Director’s decision when the Medical Director did not have the SMO.
Employer also asserts on appeal that the WCJ erred in denying Employer’s
motion for an IME. Employer alleges that an IME is necessary because Dr.
Michael and Dr. Boudreaux’s opinions contradict Dr. McDonnell’s opinion.
Louisiana Revised Statutes 23:1123 as revised and made effective in 2017 reads:
“If any dispute arises as to the condition of the employee, or the employee’s
capacity to work, the assistant secretary, upon application of any party, shall order
an additional medical opinion regarding an examination of the employee to be
made by a medical practitioner selected and appointed by the assistant secretary.”2
Additionally, La.R.S. 23:1124.1 states, “the workers’ compensation judge, on his
own motion, may order that any claimant appearing before it be examined by other
Additionally, the third circuit in Edwards v. Plant Works, 13-1112, p. 5
(La.App. 3 Cir. 8/6/14), 145 So.3d 1108, 1112, recognized that the “WCJ
possesses the authority . . . to order an IME of the injured worker pursuant to
La.R.S. 23:1123[.]” The third circuit further explained: “While we recognize that
a 2012 amendment to La.R.S. 23:1123 removed language which allowed the
WCJ to order an IME when a dispute arose over medical treatment
recommended for the employee, the WCJ still retains the authority to order an
IME whenever the employee’s condition is called into question.” Id. at 1112
(emphasis added). In Edwards, the WCJ determined an IME was necessary
because “the factual situation before her was so convoluted that a second medical
opinion regarding Ms. Edwards’ medical condition was necessary to assist both the
Medical Director and her in determining whether the requested surgery was
medically necessary.” Id.
2 We note that the legislative materials use “Director” instead of “Assistant Secretary,” which is how the statute appeared following the 2012 amendment. 2017 La.Sess. Law Serv. Act 381 (S.B. 121). There is no indication in the legislative materials that “Director” was to be replaced. However, “Director” is not defined by the definitions found in La.R.S. 23:1021, but “Assistant secretary” is defined.
Although the law was amended in 2012, the courts have consistently held
that an IME is warranted under La.R.S. 23:1123 “when there is a dispute as to a
claimant’s condition.” Christus-Schumpert v. Herrin, 45,233, p. 5 (La.App. 2 Cir.
5/19/10), 38 So.3d 1167, 1170; see Edwards, 145 So.3d 1108. In Christus
Schumpert, the appellate court reversed the WCJ’s denial of an IME appointment
finding that, while there was not only a dispute regarding the recommended future
and ongoing treatment, there was also a dispute regarding the claimant’s medical
diagnoses. Therefore, the WCJ committed manifest error in denying the IME
Employer argues that the SMO disagreed with the medical necessity of the
surgery recommended by Dr. McDonnell and, therefore, Employer filed a motion
for IME. Additionally, Employer asserts that the psychologist’s opinion also
contradicted Dr. McDonnell’s opinion that Mr. Greene was a good candidate for
surgery. Specifically, Employer asserted that the IME was necessary “[i]n light of
the differing opinions of claimant’s treating orthopedic surgeon, . . . and the SMO
physician, . . . and whether Claimant is psychologically cleared for surgery at this
The WCJ found that the SMO did not contradict Dr. McDonnell’s surgery
recommendation, although it differed on the necessity of instrumentation.
Additionally, the WCJ did not find Dr. Boudreaux’s psychological opinion to
contradict Dr. McDonnell. Specifically, the WCJ states:
[T]he psychiatrist said that his would [sic] be poor and he recommended certain things that should be down [sic], but he also said that it was a medical decision. The SMO never pointed to anything in the medical guidelines that would prohibit the medical necessity for the surgery and, therefore, based upon that, I am going to deny both the appeal and the request for an IME.
Dr. McDonnell’s records submitted to the Medical Director included Dr.
McDonnell’s review of Mr. Greene’s 2017 lumbar MRI, which Dr. McDonnell
noted showed “generalized spondylosis with a partially segmented lowest segment.
There is no obvious instability but little movement on flexion and extension
laterals.” After obtaining a 2018 lumbar MRI, Dr. McDonnell notes “There is a far
lateral disc herniation at L4-5 on the left, which is his symptomatic side. There is
concurrent facet hypotrophy, which narrows the left foramen and the left lateral
recess of the spinal canal.” Dr. McDonnell then recommended posterior
decompression, instrumentation, and fusion L4-5. Dr. McDonnell assessed Mr.
Greene with “left L5 radiculopathy . . . on EMG[,]” “Far lateral disc herniation
(implied annular tear) on the left with facet syndrome L4-5[,]” “progression of L4
5 injury previously documented on MRI[,]” and “Failure of physical therapy and
injection treatment.” After recommending and receiving a psychological test per
the Medical Treatment Guidelines, Dr. McDonnell notes that “Dr. Boudreaux felt
that the patient should quit alcohol, and the patient has done so to my
satisfaction[,]” noting that Mr. Greene “quit alcohol and tobacco for over one
month.” Although Mr. Greene had continued experiencing neck and shoulder pain
despite his cervical surgery, the most recent records, dated June 6, 2018, note that
Mr. Greene’s “posterior neck pain at about the shoulder level with burning down
both arms is a lot better.”
The SMO, Dr. Michael, opined that Mr. Greene’s “MRI images are not
consistent with acute findings” and that Mr. Greene “has unrelated pre-injury
lumbar degenerative changes[,]” which are consistent with the MRI images. He
continues, “the degenerative disc change at the L4-5 level is causing deformation
of the left L4 nerve root past the neural foramen and would not cause pressure on
the left L5 nerve root which is symptomatic in Mr. Greene’s case.” Additionally,
Dr. Michael opines that Mr. Greene does not have any spinal instability that would
necessitate a fusion. He further opined regarding his “diagnostic impression” of
Mr. Greene’s lumbar spine: “Mr. Greene has objective findings on my physical
exam consistent with radiculitis involving the left L5 nerve root with hypoesthesia
along the left medial foot.”
Dr. Michael’s recommended plan of care would be “surgery for a non-work
related posterior decompression at L4-5 to address L5 nerve root compression[.]”
This opinion is in agreement with Dr. McDonnell’s recommendation for posterior
decompression at L4-5. However, Dr. Michael disagreed with the need for fusion
and instrumentation due to the lack of instability in Mr. Greene’s lumbar spine as
well as Mr. Greene’s lack of improvement with facet injections. Additionally, Dr.
Michael expressed his concerns for surgery, citing Dr. Boudreaux’s psychological
assessment and Mr. Greene’s continued neck and arm pain despite two cervical
surgeries, which should have relieved those symptoms. Specifically, Dr. Michael
opines, “His failure to respond well to several conservative treatment programs of
injections and physical therapy, with Dr. Boudreaux’s recommendations, as well as
minimal improvement from two cervical decompressions with fusions concerns me
regarding the possibility of functional or pain improvements with any further
surgery in Mr. Greene’s case.” Finally, Dr. Michael opines that Mr. Greene is at
maximum medical improvement regarding his lumbar work injury.
Based on the above, we find no manifest error in the WCJ’s denial of
Employer’s request for an IME.
Outcome: For the reasons assigned, we find it was legal error for the WCJ to affirm the
Medical Director’s decision; however, we find no manifest error in the WCJ’s
denial of Employer’s request for an IME. Thus, we affirm the denial of an IME,
reverse the WCJ’s affirmation of the Medical Director’s decision, and remand to
the WCJ with instructions for the parties to resubmit the medical evidence,
including the SMO, to the Medical Director. Costs of this appeal, which are
$335.50, are to be assessed equally between the parties.