Case samples: narratives from the court files
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Sunday, February 12, 2012
12/10/12 at 11:27 AM
Q&A: Workers compensation
Injured police get $1.9M
Many firefighters injured in training
Tulsa spends $28 million on workers comp in 23 months
The following narratives are drawn from the 251 workers compensation court files reviewed by the Tulsa World. The analysis reviews cases from January 2010 to November 2011. Listed ages are as of date of injury.
56-year-old police officer
A 35-year police veteran effectively ended his career in 2008 while "attempting to arrest (a) combative suspect" - "an individual believed to be mentally deranged" - who was standing in the middle of the street, shouting at motorists and trying to throw a bicycle at passing cars. The officer tackled the subject when he tried to elude officers and wound up in the hospital with a complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament.
At various times during his career, the officer suffered a right shoulder injury and facial lacerations and underwent surgery on his left shoulder and foot. He eventually returned to work but had trouble performing at an acceptable level. He ultimately retired.
53-year-old records clerk
The 5-foot-1-inch, 300-pound office worker already had a claim pending when she filed for compensation in 2008 for a back injury she said was caused by someone pulling her chair out from under her. In 2004, she said she injured a knee while turning in her swivel chair. In all, she has filed four claims against the city and been awarded about $70,000 in disability payments.
She has also been awarded disability claims on four occasions from private-sector employers.
He suffered a heart attack while walking on a track, resulting in a five-way bypass. It was a source of considerable disagreement between him and the city. The city's doctors said his heart attack was the result of his general health, not his occupation. His lawyers argued that it occurred as the result of work stress and mandatory fitness requirements.
The court ultimately awarded the firefighter more than $50,000 in disability payments.
According to case files, the 6-foot-2-inch, 326-pound firefighter slipped on ice while getting out of a department vehicle and injured a knee. Doctor reports say he suffered from a variety of chronic and compounded injuries and ailments, including obesity, high cholesterol, chronic back pain, hip problems and "audible popping" in his right knee.
A 27-year member of the department, he was awarded about $26,000 in disability payments.
25-year-old park employee
He was mowing a city park in 2007 when the tractor he was driving hit a hole, tossing him into the air and damaging his spine. Doctor reports describe a "spinal fluid leak" and "fluid accumulation," causing severe pain, nausea and intermittent hospitalization.
"He and I discussed the fact that his headaches and pain may get worse ... he does not want more surgery," says one report dated last April.
In November 2011, the park employee and his wife agreed to a settlement paying them $152,000 against all future claims, including death.
A 25-year veteran of the department suffered a shoulder injury. It was officially attributed to "working out," but a doctor's report said the problem began 15 years earlier, when the firefighter "fell through a floor" while fighting a fire. The original injury had developed into "severe bone-on-bone osteoarthritis," according to the report. He also underwent a hip replacement in 2010.
51-year-old maintenance worker
After more than 30 years with the city, he applied for permanent total disability but was turned down by Judge Owen Evans, who wrote: "Although claimant may be incapable of gainful employment, that is due to numerous non-job related conditions."
Listed in a 2010 medical evaluation as 5 feet 10 inches and 356 pounds (an earlier one listed him at 300), he was recommended for vocational retraining. Although denied permanent total disability, the maintenance worker was awarded more than $68,000 in partial disability payments.
44-year-old police officer
He was awarded more than $130,000 in partial disability payments from eight separate incidents, including three car wrecks, between 2001 and 2007.
47-year-old police officer
His 2007 motorcycle crash resulted in one of the largest disability payments - nearly $90,000 - from the cases reviewed. The police officer was chasing a red light-runner on 71st Street when he struck a different car and went airborne, resulting in multiple injuries.
Originally he injured his back "lifting a heavy patient onto an EMSA stretcher" in 2005. The case was reopened in 2011 because of a worsening condition. A doctor's report notes his medications include Flexeril, hydrocodone and time-release morphine and says he strongly advises "developing a program ... that would assist him in strengthening his back and reduce his pain overall."
40-year-old 9-1-1 dispatcher
She worked "about 10 months" for the City of Tulsa, during which time she fell down some stairs, resulting in injuries to her right knee, back and left foot. Her size - listed as 5 feet 9 inches and 362 pounds in one doctor report - her smoking and her generally poor health caused even her own doctors to hedge their assessments. "It is my opinion the patient's symptoms are primarily related to her obesity, age, and not being in good physical shape," wrote one.