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Allegrezza v. Greenville Mfg. Co.

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

September 12, 2013

Kathy ALLEGREZZA
v.
GREENVILLE MANUFACTURING COMPANY and The Travelers Insurance Company.

Rehearing Denied Sept. 26, 2013.

Page 720

Lawrence J. Hakim, Batesville, attorney for appellant.

Marjorie T. O'Donnell, Oxford, attorney for appellee.

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI

WALLER, Chief Justice.

¶ 1. Kathy Allegrezza filed separate workers' compensation claims against her employer Greenville Manufacturing alleging an injury to her upper extremities (carpal tunnel syndrome) in 1997 and a separate injury to her back in 1998. An administrative law judge (ALJ) granted disability benefits for Allegrezza's carpal-tunnel-syndrome claim but found that Allegrezza had not proven a loss of wage-earning capacity to support her back-injury claim. The administrative judge also denied Allegrezza's claim to amend her petition to controvert to include a psychological-overlay claim, finding that Allegrezza had been treated by physicians outside the proper chain of referral. The Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission affirmed the administrative judge's findings regarding Allegrezza's carpal-tunnel-syndrome claim and the denial of the motion to amend. However, the Commission found that Allegrezza had sustained some loss of wage-earning capacity due to her back injury and awarded her disability benefits for that injury. Allegrezza appealed to the Circuit Court of Washington County, which affirmed the Commission's decision in all respects. She then appealed to this Court, and the case was assigned to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals affirmed the Commission's decision, finding that substantial evidence supported each of the Commission's findings. This matter is now before this Court on Allegrezza's petition for writ of certiorari.

FACTS

¶ 2. Allegrezza began working for Greenville Manufacturing in 1993, working in both the sewing department and the quality control department. In 1997, she received a transfer to the " cutter department." After her transfer, Allegrezza began to experience pain and swelling in her hands and wrists and sought treatment from her primary physician Dr. Joe Pulliam.

Page 721

Greenville and Travelers also referred her to Dr. Jim Adams for an evaluation. Dr. Adams then referred Allegrezza to Dr. Don Carpenter and Dr. Aubrey Lucas, a hand specialist. Tests performed by Dr. Carpenter revealed that Allegrezza suffered from bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. Dr. Lucas confirmed the diagnosis and recommended that Allegrezza undergo surgery. Allegrezza sought evaluations from Dr. Larry Field and Dr. Shelby Brantley, who both confirmed the diagnosis of bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome and recommended surgery. Dr. Lucas performed bilateral carpal-tunnel releases on Allegrezza on January 8, 1998, and Allegrezza returned to work on modified duty on January 12, 1998.

¶ 3. On January 21, 1998, while still on modified duty, Allegrezza was walking through Greenville's plant when she tripped over a wooden pallet and fell on her left side. She returned to Dr. Lucas the following day for him to examine her wrists after the fall. Dr. Lucas indicated that Allegrezza's fall did not change or worsen the condition of her wrists. Dr. Lucas placed Allegrezza at maximum medical improvement (MMI) on April 2, 1998, and assigned a five-percent impairment rating to each upper extremity. Dr. Lucas released Allegrezza to return to her regular work duties on April 3, 1998. Dr. Lucas's final restrictions stated that Allegrezza could return to regular duty for two hours per day, but that any repetitive work should be restricted for the remaining six hours of the work day.

¶ 4. Following her fall, Allegrezza was evaluated by Dr. Jim Adams, and x-rays were performed. She then returned to Dr. Pulliam, her primary physician, for another examination. Dr. Pulliam diagnosed Allegrezza with a back strain and referred her to Dr. Rodney Frothingham, a neurosurgeon. Dr. Frothingham performed an MRI on Allegrezza. Based on his examination and the MRI results, Dr. Frothingham indicated that Allegrezza was not a candidate for surgery. Dr. Frothingham then referred Allegrezza to Dr. Jo Travis, an anesthesiologist. Dr. Travis treated Allegrezza for a short time but could not provide her any relief from her back pain. Dr. Travis then referred Allegrezza to Dr. David Collip, a physician specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Dr. Collip evaluated Allegrezza and referred her to several other specialists for various tests and treatments, including a lumbar myelogram/CT scan. The myelogram revealed no abnormalities and essentially read as normal. Based on these results, Dr. Collip indicated that Allegrezza's complaints were mostly subjective and were not substantiated by her medical records.

¶ 5. Greenville Manufacturing also had Allegrezza evaluated after her back injury. On August 11, 1998, Dr. John Brophy performed a physical examination of Allegrezza and agreed with Dr. Frothingham's recommendations for treatment. Dr. Brophy indicated that it was his opinion that the source of Allegrezza's back pain was sacroiliitis with possible mild lumbar radiculopathy. Dr. Brophy later testified in his deposition that, based on the results of Allegrezza's myelogram/CT scan, Allegrezza was not a candidate for surgery.

¶ 6. After reviewing the results of Allegrezza's myelogram/CT scan, Dr. Collip referred Allegrezza to Christopher Menhard, a physical therapist. Menhard performed a functional capacity evaluation (FCE) of Allegrezza on November 3, 1998, and later performed an on-site job analysis. Based on these evaluations, Menhard indicated that it was his opinion that Allegrezza could return to ...


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