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Hotz v. Nebraska Medical Center

Court of Appeals of Nebraska

May 21, 2013

Deborah Hotz, appellant,
v.
Nebraska Medical Center, the employer, and Safety First Insurance Company, its workers' compensation carrier, appellees.

NOT DESIGNATED FOR PERMANENT PUBLICATION

Appeal from the Workers' Compensation Court: Ronald L. Brown, Judge.

Angela L. Burmeister, of Berkshire & Burmeister, for appellant.

William J. Birkel and Noah M. Priluck, of McGrath, North, Mullin & Kratz, P.C., L.L.O., for appellees.

Inbody, Chief Judge, and Irwin and Moore, Judges.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND JUDGMENT ON APPEAL

Irwin, Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Deborah Hotz (Deborah) appeals the decision of the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Court, which determined that she was not entitled to disability payments, medical benefits, or vocational rehabilitation for an injury she suffered after she slipped and fell while at work for the Nebraska Medical Center. On appeal, Deborah challenges the court's finding that any temporary or permanent disability she suffered was not the result of her slip and fall, but was instead the result of a chronic, preexisting condition that was unrelated to the fall. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the decision of the Workers' Compensation Court.

II. BACKGROUND

On June 28, 2009, Deborah was working as a laboratory technician for the Nebraska Medical Center. While at work, Deborah slipped on a wet floor and fell. As she fell, her body twisted in a "weird way" and her head "snapped around." Deborah felt a sharp pain in her neck immediately after the fall, but continued to complete her work duties. However, approximately 1 hour after the fall, she left work to go to the emergency room because she was in a great deal of pain.

At the emergency room, doctors evaluated Deborah and took x rays of her neck. She was ultimately diagnosed as suffering from a cervical strain in her neck, also known as "whiplash." She was prescribed pain medication for the injury. Additionally, Deborah was informed that the x rays of her neck revealed that she had a chronic fracture in her neck that did not occur in the fall, but, rather, was likely from an "old trauma." Deborah was told to consult a neurosurgeon regarding the chronic fracture.

Deborah consulted Dr. George Greene, a neurosurgeon, about the fracture in her neck. After further testing, Dr. Greene informed Deborah that she suffered from an unstable, chronic neck fracture. He recommended that she undergo surgery to repair the fracture and informed her that due to the instability of the fracture, any additional, small trauma could cause paralysis or death. Dr. Greene informed Deborah that the fracture preexisted her slip and fall, but he was unable to pinpoint exactly when the fracture became unstable.

Deborah underwent surgery in August 2009 to repair the fracture. As a result of this surgery, she missed 6 weeks of work. Deborah underwent a second surgery in March 2012 to complete the repair of the fracture. As a result of this surgery, Deborah missed an additional 6 weeks of work.

On June 20, 2011, Deborah filed a petition in the Workers' Compensation Court, alleging that she had been injured in the scope and course of her employment with the Nebraska Medical Center. She further alleged that as a result of her work-related accident, she suffered from serious personal injuries and was entitled to ...


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