Kuykendall v. Gates Rubber Co.

Decision Date06 December 2006
Docket NumberNo. 27725.,27725.
Citation207 S.W.3d 694
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals
PartiesCharles KUYKENDALL, Appellant, v. GATES RUBBER COMPANY, Respondent.

Michael Moroni, Burns, Taylor, Heckemeyer & Green, LLC, Cape Girardeau, for appellant.

Kenneth C. McMananaman, Cape Girardeau, for respondent.

ROBERT S. BARNEY, Judge.

Appellant Charles Kuykendall ("Claimant") appeals from the final award of the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission ("the Commission") affirming the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") regarding Claimant's request for worker's compensation disability benefits based on occupational injuries suffered on or about March 10, 2000, while working for Gates Rubber Company ("Employer").

In particular, Claimant takes umbrage with the Commission's denial of his claims for compensation relating to surgeries performed on his left wrist after June 11, 2001, and its denial of his claims for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy ("RSD") in his left upper extremity, permanent total disability, future medical benefits, depression anxiety, sleep interference, restless leg syndrome, and myofascial pain in both shoulders.1 Claimant now brings three points on appeal.2

The record reveals Claimant, who was forty-eight years old at the time of the hearing in this matter, was a "spiral line operator" for Employer, a company which manufactures rubber hoses. Claimant began working for Employer on July 11, 1988, and was employed there for a period of twelve years until March 17, 2003. As a spiral line operator, Claimant had several job responsibilities all of which involved repeatedly and continuously twisting his hands, wrists and shoulders.

On March 10, 2000, Claimant saw a physical therapist at work regarding "swelling of [his] fingers [and][his] wrist, and the elbow area of both arms" as well as swelling in both hands. He stated that he had been having problems with his hands, arms, and wrists for three or four months prior to meeting with the therapist, but that he had not mentioned it to Employer prior to March 10, 2000.

Employer sent Claimant to see Dr. Gregory Tobin ("Dr.Tobin"). After examining Claimant, Dr. Tobin gave Claimant wrist braces; a prescription for hydrocodone; and recommended physical therapy at Restart. Dr. Tobin also told Claimant he believed Claimant was suffering from a "FCC tear" to the cartilage in both of his wrists.

Claimant saw Dr. William Kapp ("Dr. Kapp") on May 24, 2000, for "bilateral shoulder pain" in both of his shoulders. Dr. Kapp ordered "a bone scan of the bilateral hands and wrists . . ." and a "subacromial injection in the bilateral shoulders." The bone scan showed "torn triangular fibrocartilage in both wrists."

Dr. David Brown ("Dr.Brown"), a bone and joint specialist, performed MRI arthrograms on both of Claimant's wrists on June 21, 2000. Dr. Brown advised that Claimant had a small tear in "the left TFCC" and "a defect in the volar aspect of the left lunotriquetral ligament" of the left wrist as well as significant damage to the right wrist.

On July 18, 2000, Dr. Brown performed surgery on Claimant's right wrist.

Claimant saw his family physician, Dr. David Catron ("Dr.Catron"), on October 19, 2000, for depression and anxiety and Dr. Catron prescribed him the anti-depressant Serzone as well as Valium.

Thereafter, on November 20, 2000, Dr. Kapp performed a "[s]houlder arthroscopy and subacromial decompression" on Claimant's right shoulder. In a follow-up appointment with Claimant on December 20, 2000, Dr. Kapp noted Claimant "has developed some myofascial pain in his upper extremity. States he has fallen three times over the last week on the ice and snow, therefore slowing his progress."

On January 8, 2001, Claimant saw Dr. Rickey Lents ("Dr.Lents") regarding pain in his left wrist. Dr. Lents later performed arthroscopic surgery on Claimant's left wrist to excise cartilage from the joints on June 1, 2001.

Thereafter, the record reveals Claimant tripped over a garden hose at home and fell down. He testified that he twisted his body during the fall and he "landed on [his] shoulder and [his] back shoulder blade" leaving his arm "up in the air." He testified that he did not think the fall had any effect on him and he had no increase in pain from the fall.

Shortly thereafter, however, Dr. Lents saw Claimant on June 25, 2001, for a post-operative exam. Dr. Lents noted Claimant reported that he had "[t]ripped over the garden hose at home and fell recently and has had a lot more swelling and pain since that time. On exam, his wrist is more swollen than before and is tender to palpation. Repeat xrays today show no fracture but he is quite swollen." As a result, Dr. Lents placed Claimant's left arm "in a short arm cast."

Claimant again saw Dr. Catron for stress and depression on August 20, 2001, at which time Dr. Catron noted Claimant "is not doing well at all" due to a personal situation with his brother. The following month, on September 21, 2001, Dr. Catron noted Claimant "is still not doing well." Dr. Catron increased Claimant's prescription for Effexor.

On August 30, 2001, Dr. Lents again examined Claimant's left wrist and found "he may be developing a little RSD . . . ."

Claimant saw Dr. William Strecker ("Dr.Strecker") on September 28, 2001, "for bilateral wrist pain . . . ." Dr. Strecker noted that while Claimant had been "doing fairly well" post-operatively with his left wrist,

[Claimant] slipped on a garden hose and landed on his left wrist. There was some concern as to whether or not he may have had a fracture. He was placed in a short arm cast for approximately three weeks; and since that time, he has had complaints of marked pain in the left wrist, and inability to use the wrist. It was Dr. Lents['] feeling that he may have a[RSD]. . . .

(Emphasis added.)

Dr. Strecker also observed that Claimant's left shoulder was neither tender nor unstable; however, Claimant "exhibit[ed] marked guarding of the entire upper extremity." Dr. Strecker further noted that Claimant did have "an ulnar positive variance" in his left wrist. Dr. Strecker wrote that "[Claimant] may also have an ongoing ulnar abutment or TFC irritation as a stimulus to [the RSD], but it is difficult to ascertain that because of his exaggerated symptomatolgy."

Dr. Wai Chiu ("Dr.Chiu"), a pain management specialist, began treating Claimant for his RSD symptoms in October of 2001. In early November of 2001, Dr. Chiu felt that Claimant's "left upper extremity RSD is controlled."

Then, on December 4, 2001, Dr. Strecker performed a "[w]rist arthroscopy with partial synovectomy and debridement of TFC" as well as "[u]lnar shortening . . ." on Claimant's left wrist. Thereafter, Claimant experienced some relief, and Dr. Strecker treated Claimant with physical therapy and medication. Dr. Strecker did note on several occasions that "there is some symptom magnification . . ." on Claimant's part; that "when sometimes distracted, [Claimant's] motion is noted to be better;" and that Claimant "exhibits marked guarding and protection of the upper extremity."

Dr. Strecker then sent Claimant to see Vic Zuccarello ("Mr.Zuccarello"), a rehabilitation therapist, and Mr. Zuccarello performed a functional capacity evaluation on Claimant.3

In July of 2002, Claimant reported to Dr. Strecker that the pain in his left wrist was "markedly improved" when he wore the "clamshell" splint which immobilized his wrist, but that when he removed the brace his pain increased "from a two to a seven." Dr. Strecker discussed the possibility of a wrist fusion with Claimant. Dr. Strecker told Claimant the procedure would be "irreversible;" that it would result in a "complete loss of motion to his wrist;" and that the procedure was not guaranteed to alleviate his pain.

Dr. Strecker also referred Claimant to Dr. John Graham ("Dr.Graham"), a pain management specialist. Dr. Graham found that he could not "see any objective findings that would account for [Claimant's] severe complaints." Further, it was Dr. Graham's opinion that Claimant did not suffer from RSD.4

Dr. Richard Coin ("Dr.Coin"), a hand and wrist specialist, evaluated Claimant on August 13, 2002. Upon physical examination of Claimant's left wrist, Dr. Coin noted there was "little mobility in the wrist," but that Claimant had "good mobility in all of the digits . . . ." He observed that a radiological examination of Claimant's left wrist revealed "a negative ulnar variance and degenerative changes at the first metacarpocarpal [sic] joint." Dr. Coin did not believe Claimant was suffering from RSD when he examined him. Further, Dr. Coin noted that typically injuries like those experienced by Claimant were "from the forceful application of an extension-pronation force to the axial loaded wrist, such as a fall on an out stretched hand or forceful rotation injury."

On December 20, 2002, Dr. Strecker performed a wrist fusion surgery on Claimant's left wrist. Claimant stated the fusion surgery seemed to help with his pain.

On May 2, 2003, Dr. Strecker noted that "there are inconsistencies in [Claimant's] active range of motion . . ." and "there may be some symptom magnification" on Claimant's part. Dr. Strecker restricted Claimant to using his left arm "only as an assist and no lifting greater than two pounds with his left arm non repetitive . . ." and released Claimant from his care after finding that Claimant was at his "maximum medical improvement." Dr. Strecker felt that at that time Claimant "had a 55 percent permanent partial disability of his upper extremity on the left side."

Dr. Catron, who saw Claimant on April 2, 2003, noted Claimant was "not doing real well" due to losing his job and felt Claimant "does appear a bit frightened but is not in severe distress . . . ." Several months later, on June 6, 2003, Dr. Catron noted Claimant was "significantly improved" and "feeling much...

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