Spencer v. Coreslab Structures, Inc.

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Spencer v. Coreslab Structures, Inc.

Case Number
A-19-0058
Court Number
Douglas
Call Date
September 10, 2019
Case Time
1:30 PM
Case Summary

A-19-0058, Spencer v. Coreslab Structures, Inc.

Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court, Judge James R. Coe

Attorney for Appellant: Ellen C. Tolsma (McAnany, Van Cleave & Phillips, P.A.)

Attorney for Appellee: Staci L. Hartman (Hartman-Nelson Law Office)

Civil Action: Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Action Taken by Trial Court: The compensation court found that Jeffrey Spencer (Spencer) sustained an injury to his low back on April 10, 2015, while pushing a wheelbarrow in the course and scope of his construction job with Coreslab Structures, Inc. (Coreslab). Spencer died of unrelated medical conditions on a date after he initiated the action but before trial took place; the estate of Spencer (the estate) represented him thereafter. Based on the compensation court’s review of the evidence, Coreslab was ordered to pay the estate certain sums for the time Spencer was found to be temporarily totally and partially disabled, and a 15 percent loss of earning capacity for his permanent disability. Coreslab appeals, and the estate cross-appeals.

Arguments on Appeal: Coreslab contends that Spencer had a preexisting spine condition, and that the April 2015 injury resulted in a temporary exacerbation of that preexisting condition and did not warrant compensation for any permanent disability. Coreslab argues that the finding of permanent disability is clearly wrong in light of the evidence. Alternatively, Coreslab asserts that the calculation of benefits was partly in error because the order results in compensation being owed beyond the date of Spencer’s death.

Arguments on Cross-Appeal: The estate argues that (1) Coreslab owes statutory penalties, interest, and attorney fees and (2) the compensation court erred in determining Spencer’s date of maximum medical improvement.

Extended Case Summary

Extended Case Summary:

A-19-0058, Spencer v. Coreslab Structures, Inc.

Original Trial Court: Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court, Judge James R. Coe

Attorneys: Ellen C. Tolsma (McAnany, Van Cleave & Phillips, P.A.) (for appellant Coreslab Structures, Inc.); Staci L. Hartman (Hartman-Nelson Law Office) (for appellee/cross-appellant the estate of Jeffrey Spencer)

Civil Action: Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Background: Jeffrey Spencer (Spencer) filed a petition in the compensation court for workers’ compensation benefits in August 2017, alleging an injury to his lumbar spine on April 10, 2015, while in the course and scope of his construction work for employer Coreslab Structures, Inc. (Coreslab). Before trial, Spencer died; the estate of Spencer (the estate) represented Spencer in the action after that. During trial, exhibits were received and two of Spencer’s siblings testified. It was Coreslab’s position that Spencer had a preexisting spine condition, and that the April 2015 injury resulted in a temporary exacerbation of that preexisting condition and did not warrant compensation for any permanent disability. The estate argued that the injury aggravated Spencer’s preexisting condition and resulted in permanent disability.

     The compensation court entered an award in favor of the estate. The compensation court noted differing medical opinions regarding the extent of Spencer’s work-related injury. It found that Spencer’s injury happened as a result of an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment with Coreslab while Spencer was pushing a wheelbarrow. The compensation court found that while Spencer suffered preexisting degenerative disc disease, he remained asymptomatic before his work-related accident. Spencer continued to work for Coreslab until terminated for an inability to do the work, then eventually obtained a new construction job with a different company where he received help with heavy duty matters from coworkers.

The compensation court determined that Spencer was (1) temporarily totally disabled from and including April 10, 2015, to and including October 26; (2) temporarily partially disabled from and including October 27 to and including December 9; and (3) temporarily totally disabled from and including December 10 to and including July 18, 2016, and thereafter sustained a 15 percent loss of earning capacity for his permanent disability. Coreslab was ordered to pay the estate $425.58 per week for 60 2/7 weeks for temporary total disability benefits, $212.79 per week for a 50 percent temporary partial loss in earning capacity for 6 2/7 weeks, and $63.83 per week for 233 3/7 weeks for the 15 percent loss of earning capacity. Coreslab was also ordered to pay a sum for outstanding mileage owed. The company was given credit for its previous payments of indemnity and medical expenses.

Coreslab appeals, and the estate cross-appeals, from the compensation court’s award.

The Nebraska Court of Appeals will consider the following issues argued by Coreslab in its appellate brief:

1. Was the compensation court’s finding that Spencer suffered a permanent disability (loss of earning capacity) clearly wrong in light of the evidence?

2. In the alternative, was the compensation court’s calculation of benefits partly in error because the order results in compensation being owed beyond the date of Spencer’s death?

The Nebraska Court of Appeals will consider the following issues argued by the estate in its appellate brief:

1. Does Coreslab owe the estate penalties, interest, and attorney fees pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. § 48-125 (Cum. Supp. 2018) for alleged nonpayment of the compensation award during pendency of this appeal?

2. Did the compensation court err in determining the date of Spencer’s maximum medical improvement (the time at which a disability is said to transition from temporary to permanent)?

Case Location
Concordia University
Court Type
WCC
Schedule Code
A2
Panel Text
Riedmann, Bishop and Arterburn, Judges