Martone v. Cmty. Med. Ctr., A-2739-19

CourtNew Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM
Docket NumberA-2739-19
PartiesSANDRA MARTONE, Petitioner-Appellant, v. COMMUNITY MEDICAL CENTER, Respondent-Respondent.
Decision Date29 December 2021

SANDRA MARTONE, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.

COMMUNITY MEDICAL CENTER, Respondent-Respondent.

No. A-2739-19

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

December 29, 2021


This opinion shall not "constitute precedent or be binding upon any court." Although it is posted on the internet, this opinion is binding only on the parties in the case and its use in other cases is limited. R. 1:36-3.

Argued October 18, 2021

On appeal from the State of New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Division of Workers' Compensation, Claim Petition No. 2013-34743.

Danielle S. Chandonnet argued the cause for appellant (Shebell & Shebell, LLC, attorneys; Danielle S. Chandonnet, on the brief).

Anne Hammill Pasqua argued the cause for respondent (Capehart & Scatchard, PA, attorneys; Michael C. Rose, of counsel; Michael P. McCaffrey, on the brief).

Before Judges Messano and Accurso.

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PER CURIAM

Appellant Sandra Martone filed a workers' compensation petition alleging that on November 15, 2013, while working as an emergency room technician for respondent Community Medical Center (CMC), she fell sustaining an injury to her right knee. CMC acknowledged the claim was compensable.[1] After three full- and partial-knee replacement surgeries, physical therapy, and other procedures over many years, Martone moved for temporary medical benefits, alleging a fourth full-knee replacement surgery was reasonable and necessary to alleviate her pain and improve her range of motion. CMC filed opposition, and the Judge of Workers' Compensation (JWC) heard testimony to decide if CMC should be compelled to pay for Martone's surgery in accordance with N.J.S.A. 34:15-15 (Section 15), the relevant provision of the Workers' Compensation Act (Act), N.J.S.A. 34:15-1 to -142.

I.

The evidence at the hearing was largely undisputed. Between the dates of March 2014 and February 2015, Dr. Christopher Passariello performed multiple procedures on Martone's right knee because of continued complaints of pain,

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including a total right knee replacement, bilateral knee manipulation under anesthesia, and a right knee arthroscopy. Following each surgery, Martone attended physical therapy and received other treatment, but eventually she was unable to continue working due to ongoing pain and her need for pain medication, which she could not take while working at CMC. Dr. Jennifer Yanow, a pain management specialist, began treating Martone in August 2015, but released her from care in January 2016 after unsuccessful anesthetic blocks to several nerves. Dr. Yanow concluded no other medical treatment could alleviate Martone's symptoms.

Martone sought a second opinion from Dr. Zachary Post, an orthopedic surgeon, who found she had "less than ideal motion." However, Dr. Post took x-rays and found the knee replacement was well-placed and well-fixed, with no evidence of loosening or mechanical failure to the knee.

Still, Martone complained of stiffness and limited range of motion. In May and July 2016, Dr. Arthur Mark, CMC's authorized workers' compensation surgeon, performed a right revision of the total knee replacement, a scar revision, and manipulation under anesthesia, but these did not alleviate Martone's pain or improve her mobility. In December 2016, Dr. Mark performed

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a revision of the tibial component of the total knee replacement and a synovectomy.

Aside from her visits with Dr. Mark and Dr. Post, Martone saw various orthopedic surgeons who provided independent re-evaluations, each concluding that in view of the multiple failed surgeries, Martone would be a poor candidate for further surgical intervention. One noted, "[Martone]'s pain seems to be out of proportion to what [he] would expect in a typical patient." Martone was evaluated by another pain specialist in February 2017 who noted her presentation was "complex" and found Martone to be manipulative and "volitive" towards obtaining continued high amounts of pain medication. A month later, Martone underwent a pain management psychological exam which found she exhibited symptoms of Somatoform Pain Disorder and Prescriptive Opioid Dependence/Tolerance.[2] On April 21, 2017, Dr. Mark stated he could offer no further curative treatment and discharged Martone.

In August 2017, Martone returned to Dr. Post, alleging she was still in pain. Dr. Post had not viewed Dr. Mark's notes nor his operative reports on the last two revisions in 2016, but, nevertheless, he concluded Martone would be a

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good candidate for a revision of her right knee. Martone sought an evaluation with Dr. Alan Nasar in May 2018 who opined he would consider revision of the right knee as recommended by Dr. Post. Using Dr. Nasar's medical report for support, Martone filed her motion for temporary medical benefits in October 2018.

Given the extensive treatment and countering expert opinions, the JWC wisely ordered CMC to authorize a one-time need-for-treatment examination to render an opinion on the benefits of further surgery. Accordingly, Dr. Michael Sidor, an orthopedic surgeon, examined Martone in March 2019. He concluded Martone was at maximum medical improvement and found there was no need for further medical treatment.

However, in April 2019, Martone revisited Dr. Post, who reiterated she would be a good candidate for total right knee reconstructive surgery. Martone filed an...

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