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Drinker v. Industrial Commission of Arizona

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division, Department A

September 24, 2013

LINDA F. DRINKER, Petitioner,
v.
THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION OF ARIZONA, Respondent, SOWIN LOVE SHELTERS, Respondent Employer, SCF ARIZONA, Respondent Carrier.

Not for Publication – Rule 28, Arizona Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure

Special Action - Industrial Commission ICA Claim No. 98365-402155 Carrier Claim No.: 9835466 The Honorable James B. Long, Administrative Law Judge.

Linda F. Drinker Phoenix Petitioner In Propria Persona.

Andrew F. Wade, Chief Counsel Phoenix Industrial Commission of Arizona Attorney for Respondent.

James B. Stabler, Chief Counsel SCF Arizona Phoenix By Ronald C. Willis Attorneys for Respondents Employer and Carrier.

MEMORANDUM DECISION

KENT E. CATTANI, Judge.

¶1 This is a special action review of an Industrial Commission of Arizona award and decision upon review by an administrative law judge ("ALJ") finding Linda F. Drinker's medical condition resulting from an ankle injury to be stationary, with 16 percent permanent impairment. Drinker contends the ALJ erred by entering an award that is not reasonably supported by the evidence. For the following reasons, we affirm the ALJ's decision.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

¶2 Drinker worked as a child care counselor at the Sowin Love Shelters. In 1998, a child kicked Drinker's leg, injuring her right ankle. The workers' compensation carrier accepted the claim as compensable.

¶3 Drinker sought treatment for the injury, including subtalar joint fusion surgery in 2008. In 2010 and 2011, in response to Drinker's complaints of chronic pain, the carrier sent Drinker for independent medical evaluations with Dr. William J. Leonetti, D.P.M., a board-certified physician in foot and ankle surgery. In 2010, Dr. Leonetti opined that the 2008 fusion attempt had failed; the failed fusion was the direct cause of her chronic pain; and her right ankle required re-fusion. In 2011, Dr. Leonetti noted that Drinker was unwilling to participate in additional surgical procedures, namely the recommended re-fusion of her right ankle joint. With Drinker's only remaining option being palliative measures, Dr. Leonetti opined that this could be provided under a supportive care award. Dr. Leonetti concluded that Drinker's condition arising from the industrial accident was stationary, and she would remain on permanent work restrictions due to her loss of balance and an abnormal gait. Dr. Leonetti recommended awarding her 16 percent impairment of her right lower extremity based on American Medical Association Guidelines.

¶4 The carrier terminated Drinker's benefits on the basis of the 2011 evaluation, and Drinker challenged the termination, claiming a continuing need for ankle treatment and that her permanent impairment was more than 16 percent. At the subsequently-scheduled hearing, Drinker testified that due to her industrial injury and the failed subtalar joint fusion surgery, she suffers from various medical conditions, including: teeth and hair loss, congestive heart failure, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, neurological disease, hallux abducto valgus (bunions), bowing leg muscle, diabetic mellitus, hypertension, osteoarthritis, dysuria (painful urination), allergies, migraines, gout, liver disease, anxiety, autoimmune disease, chronic pain, permanent loss of balance, and altered body temperature. She argued that the surgeon who performed the 2008 fusion surgery put radium in her body and that she had developed 15 diseases "from that alone." She submitted various medical records in support of her testimony.

¶5 The ALJ found that although Drinker submitted medical records that describe various medical conditions, she failed to prove a causal relationship between the conditions and her industrial injury. The ALJ adopted Dr. Leonetti's conclusions from his 2011 evaluation report and issued an award finding Drinker medically stationary with 16 percent permanent impairment of her right lower extremity. After Drinker sought reconsideration, the ALJ affirmed the decision upon review.

¶6 This timely special action followed. We have jurisdiction pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes ("A.R.S.") sections 12-120.21(A)(2) and 23-951(A) and Arizona Rule of ...


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