Watson v. Johnston County Emergency Services (Lawyers Weekly No. 012-200-16, 11 pp.) (Richard Dietz, J.) Appealed from the Industrial Commission. N.C. App. Unpub.
Holding: It is true that, in Carothers v. Ti-Caro, 83 N.C. App. 301, 350 S.E.2d 95 (1986), this court held that, in reviewing a workers’ compensation claim, the Industrial Commission “is concerned with conditions as they exist prior to and at the time of the hearing.” However, where the deposition of plaintiff’s treating physician did not occur until the month after her hearing before the deputy commissioner, the physician’s deposition testimony was considered by the deputy commissioner in reaching her initial ruling, and the testimony was contained in the administrative record reviewed by the Commission, that testimony was not “anticipatory” or “speculative,” and it supported the Commission’s finding of the state of plaintiff’s injuries as they presently existed.
We affirm the Commission’s determinations that plaintiff’s disability ended on Oct. 30, 2013, and that her depression and migraines were not compensable.
At the time the Commission issued its opinion and award, plaintiff’s treating physician already had released her to return to work beginning Oct. 30, 2013. Plaintiff does not dispute this fact and, other than her claim that the evidence was impermissible under Carothers, asserts no reason for why her disability continued beyond the date her treating physician released her to return to work. Accordingly, the Commission did not err in concluding that plaintiff’s disability ended on Oct. 30, 2013.
With respect to plaintiff’s depression, one of her own experts testified that plaintiff had a number of other conditions that could cause depression, such as a past assault and her resulting trauma, weight concerns, and a current abusive relationship. Both of plaintiff’s experts heavily relied on plaintiff’s own explanation of her past medical history and did little to examine her history with depression and the events that caused it. These weaknesses in the underlying evaluation and reasoning of plaintiff’s experts were sufficient to permit the Commission to discredit their opinions that plaintiff’s at-work fall and resulting chronic pain caused or exacerbated her depression.
Similarly, with respect to plaintiff’s migraines, her expert witnesses provided equivocal testimony. One expert conceded that she was unsure whether plaintiff’s migraines were caused by her workplace injury and resulting chronic pain. The other expert testified that plaintiff’s workplace injury exacerbated an existing migraine disorder but did not provide any details about how he examined her previous migraines to confirm that her condition was worse now than it had been before her work-related injury.
Again, in light of the weaknesses in the underlying evaluations and reasoning of these experts, the Commission was entitled to discredit their testimony.
The record supports the Commission’s findings that plaintiff’s depression and migraines were not compensable.