Award for repetitive-stress injury upheld

In November 1997, Michael Veatch complained of discomfort in his left wrist while raking a furnace at American Tool, a Nebraska company. He was diagnosed with tendonitis, and, after some improvement, was released from medical care. In February 1998, Veatc

In November 1997, Michael Veatch complained of discomfort in his left wrist while raking a furnace at American Tool, a Nebraska company. He was diagnosed with tendonitis, and, after some improvement, was released from medical care. In February 1998, Veatch returned to his doctor and was diagnosed with recurrent tendonitis. He returned to his doctor in June 1999 with flare-ups in his left wrist, but apparently continued to work.

In September 1999, following a motor-vehicle accident, Veatch was referred to Dr. David Heiser. Heiser noted various injuries, including pain in the left wrist, and suspected Veatch had avascular necrosis instead of tendonitis. Heiser referred Veatch to Dr. Richard Murphy, who diagnosed avascular necrosis and performed surgery on Veatch's wrist. Murphy wrote a report stating that Veatch's condition "more likely than not" was caused by, or aggravated by, Veatch's repetitive use of his left wrist in his employment.

Veatch filed a claim for workers' benefits. At trial, American Tool offered evidence the injury was not work related including early X-rays that did not show an injury and a bone scan taken after Veatch's motor-vehicle accident that showed an injury. Murphy testified in his opinion Veatch's avascular necrosis was caused by his employment and said the absence of an injury on early X-rays did not mean the injury was not work related.

American Tool objected to Murphy's testimony, requesting it should not be admitted because the doctor had not reviewed Veatch's medical records and had not produced studies about the role of repetitive motion in causing avascular necrosis. The Nebraska Workers' Compensation Court admitted Murphy's testimony and found for Veatch, concluding the injury to his wrist was work related and caused by repetitive trauma.

American Tool appealed to the Supreme Court of Nebraska, which noted there are limited grounds on which an appellate court can set aside a decision of a Workers' Compensation Court. The court found no such grounds, and upheld the award to Veatch.

Veatch v. American Tool, 676 N.W.2d 730 (Sup.Ct.Neb. 2004), Supreme Court of Nebraska, April 2, 2004.

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