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McRoberts v. General Electric Company

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District

July 15, 2013

GERALD MCROBERTS, Appellant,
v.
GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY, et al., Appellees.

APPEAL FROM BUTLER COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No. CV2010-02-0642

Brown, Lippert & Laite, David A. Laite, for appellant, Gerald McRoberts

Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP, Susan D. Solle, for appellee, General Electric Company

Steven P. Fixler, Assistant Attorney General, Ohio Attorney General's Office, for appellee, Marsha Ryan, Administrator, Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation

OPINION

HENDRICKSON, P.J.

{¶ 1} Appellant, Gerald McRoberts, appeals from the judgment of the Butler County Common Pleas Court denying his workers' compensation claim for the condition of left carpal tunnel syndrome. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

{¶ 2} McRoberts is a General Electric machinist who assembles and disassembles parts. In September 2008, he filed a claim with the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation in which he requested compensation for injury to his bilateral index and ring trigger fingers and left De Quervain's tenosynovitis. Those conditions were certified by GE. In January 2009, McRoberts filed a motion with the Industrial Commission of Ohio to amend his claim to allow the additional conditions of bilateral middle trigger finger and right tennis elbow. The Industrial Commission allowed these additional conditions. In June 2009, McRoberts filed a second motion to amend his claim to allow three additional conditions, namely, bilateral shoulder tendinosis, left carpal tunnel syndrome and substantial aggravation of degenerative changes of the left shoulder. The Industrial Commission disallowed these three additional conditions.

{¶ 3} McRoberts appealed the disallowance of the three additional conditions to the Butler County Court of Common Pleas pursuant to R.C. 4123.512. The matter was referred to a magistrate who held a bench trial on McRoberts' claims. GE presented the expert testimony of Dr. Marc Whitsett, M.D., who specializes in internal medicine and occupational diseases. Dr. Whitsett testified that it was his opinion, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that it is not "more than fifty-one percent likely" that McRoberts' work activity at GE is the proximate cause of his left carpal tunnel syndrome. However, Dr. Whitsett acknowledged that McRoberts' work activity at GE is a "contributory factor" to his left carpal tunnel syndrome, which he estimated to be "a thirty percent contributory [factor]."

{¶ 4} The magistrate denied McRoberts' claim that he was entitled to workers' compensation benefits for the three additional conditions, including left carpal tunnel syndrome. McRoberts filed only one objection to the magistrate's decision, arguing the magistrate erred in disallowing the condition of left carpal tunnel syndrome. The trial court overruled McRoberts' objection.

{¶ 5} McRoberts now appeals from the trial court's judgment and assigns the following as error:

{¶ 6} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY OVERRULING PLAINTIFFS OBJECTIONS TO [sic] MAGISTRATE'S DECISION.

{¶ 7} McRoberts argues the trial court erred in overruling his objection to the magistrate's decision denying his workers' compensation claim for left carpal tunnel syndrome. We disagree with this argument.

{¶ 8} The trial court, in ruling on a R.C. 4123.512 appeal from an order of the Industrial Commission denying a workers' compensation claim, uses a de novo standard of review, i.e., it reviews the order independently and without deference to the commission's decision. Krull v. Ryan, 1st Dist. No. C-100019, 2010-Ohio-4422, ¶ 9. The court of appeals, in ruling on an appeal from the trial court's judgment in a R.C. 4123.512 appeal, uses a manifest-weight-of-the-evidence standard and will uphold the judgment if it is supported by competent, credible evidence. Id. To the extent that the trial court's judgment involves a question of law, however, a court of appeals reviews the question of law independently and without deference to the trial court's judgment. Budzevski v. OhioHealth Corp., 10th Dist. No. 12AP-112, 2012-Ohio-5038, ¶ 13.

{¶ 9} In order to participate in the workers' compensation system, a claimant must have been injured at work or have contracted an occupational disease through his employment. Stoneman v. Zimmer Orthopaedic Surgical Products, Inc., 5th Dist. Nos. 2007 AP 08 0046, 2007 AP 08 0045, 2008-Ohio-5241, ΒΆ 160. Here, McRoberts acknowledges that his left carpal tunnel syndrome is not the result of any specific injury at GE. Therefore, he was required to prove ...


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