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Moeller v. Mississippi Dept. of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

October 29, 2013

Margaret MOELLER, Appellant
v.
MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES and Mississippi State Agencies Workers' Compensation Trust Fund, Appellees.

Page 696

Jonathan B. Fairbank, attorney for appellant.

Diane Pradat Pumphrey, Jackson, attorney for appellees.

Before GRIFFIS, P.J., MAXWELL and FAIR, JJ.

GRIFFIS, P.J.

¶ 1. Margaret Moeller appeals the decision of the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission that determined her mental-health issues were not aggravated by an on-the-job shoulder injury she sustained. In this appeal, she argues that the Commission did not properly assess the weight of the substantial evidence when it deferred to the opinion of an independent medical examiner over Moeller's treating physician. We find no error and affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶ 2. Moeller was employed by the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS). On December 22, 1999, Moeller suffered an on-the-job injury when she hurt her shoulder lifting a box.

¶ 3. Moeller filed a petition to controvert with the Commission. The petition alleged that the shoulder injury, along with other work-connected factors, resulted in mental and psychological injury to Moeller. MDHS and its insurance carrier, the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Trust Fund (MWCTF), filed a response that admitted Moeller's injury to her shoulder.

Page 697

¶ 4. Moeller subsequently sought treatment for anxiety and depression with various providers. First, Moeller began to see Dr. Ben Root, a psychiatrist, in 2000. Dr. Root diagnosed Moeller with a single episode of major depression, which included complaints of trouble with insomnia, difficulty concentrating, and a depressed mood. Dr. Root testified that Moeller mentioned other problems as well, which included family issues, being held at gunpoint by a supervisor in 1999, and pending litigation.

¶ 5. Next, Moeller saw Dr. Angela Koestler, a psychologist, on May 16, 2001. Dr. Koestler treated Moeller from May 2001 to December 2003, and diagnosed her with having an adjustment disorder with anxiety and depressed mood. Dr. Koestler's records, like Dr. Root's, noted that Moeller related her mental injuries and physical complaints to stressors related to pain, family issues, being held at gunpoint by a supervisor in 1999, and litigation. Dr. Koestler opined that Moeller had a tendency to be dependent and overly reliant on medical personnel, but that she had no major personality disturbances. Dr. Koestler discharged Moeller from her care after she resumed treatment with Dr. Root.

¶ 6. MDHS and MWCTF first referred Moeller to Dr. Edward Manning for a psychiatric evaluation on March 9, 2005, pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated section (1) (Supp.2012). According to Dr. Manning's report, Moeller stated that she had been in an automobile accident and suffered a head injury. She also told Dr. Manning that she had been advised not to disclose the information about her physical and mental history. Dr. Manning determined that, because of Moeller's refusal to cooperate, the interview had been compromised, as he might have trouble accepting the veracity of her statements.

¶ 7. After review of the report from Dr. Manning, MDHS and MWCTF filed a motion to have Moeller undergo a psychiatric evaluation by a medical examiner of their choice. Subsequently, the administrative judge (AJ) ordered Moeller to submit to an examination by Dr. Thomas Boll, a board certified psychologist and neuropsychologist. Dr. Boll issued a report that indicated that Moeller had no work restrictions, that she had no neuropsychological deficits, and that it was not possible to attribute her psychiatric difficulties to her 1999 shoulder injury. Dr. Boll did, however, note that because he could not determine the validity of Moeller's allegations, he assigned the diagnosis of depressive disorder and a need for ongoing psychiatric intervention.

¶ 8. As a result of Dr. Boll's report, MDHS and MWCTF filed a motion to suspend Moeller's benefits. The motion alleged that Moeller was not disabled, was at maximum medical improvement, and had no work restrictions. The AJ denied their motion. Moeller applied ...


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