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Appeal from the Workers' Compensation Court: JOHN R.
HOFFERT, Judge. Affirmed.
Roger D. Moore, of Rehm,
Bennett & Moore, P.C., L.L.O., for appellant.
Jon S. Reid, of Lamson, Dugan & Murray, L.L.P., for appellee.
Heavican, C.J., Wright, Connolly, Stephan, McCormack, Miller-Lerman, and Cassel, JJ.
Syllabus by the Court
1. Workers' Compensation: Appeal and Error. A judgment, order, or award of the Workers' Compensation Court may be modified, reversed, or set aside only upon the grounds that (1) the compensation court acted without or in excess of its powers; (2) the judgment, order, or award was procured by fraud; (3) there is not sufficient competent evidence in the record to warrant the making of the order, judgment, or award; or (4) the findings of fact by the compensation court do not support the order or award.
2. Workers' Compensation: Appeal and Error. In determining whether to affirm, modify, reverse, or set aside a judgment of the Workers' Compensation Court, a higher appellate court reviews the trial judge's findings of fact, which will not be disturbed unless clearly wrong.
3. Workers' Compensation: Appeal and Error. Regarding questions of law, an appellate court in workers' compensation cases is obligated to make its own decisions.
4. Workers' Compensation: Evidence: Appeal and Error. In testing the sufficiency of the evidence to support the findings of fact by the Workers' Compensation Court, the evidence must be considered in the light most favorable to the successful party, every controverted fact must be resolved in favor of the successful party, and the successful party will have the benefit of every inference that is reasonably deducible from the evidence.
5. Workers' Compensation: Jurisdiction: Statutes. As a statutorily created court, the Workers' Compensation Court is a tribunal of limited and special jurisdiction and has only such authority as has been conferred on it by statute.
6. Workers' Compensation: Proof. To obtain a modification of an award, an applicant must prove, by a preponderance of evidence, that the increase or decrease in incapacity was due solely to the injury resulting from the original accident.
7. Workers' Compensation: Proof. To obtain a modification of a prior award, the applicant must prove there exists a material and substantial change for the better or worse in the condition-a change in circumstances that justifies a modification, distinct and different from the condition for which the adjudication had been previously made.
8. Workers' Compensation. Whether an applicant's incapacity has increased under the terms of Neb.Rev.Stat. § 48-141 (Reissue 2010) is a finding of fact.
9. Workers' Compensation: Appeal and Error. Upon appellate review, the findings of fact made by the trial judge of the compensation court have the effect of a jury verdict and will not be disturbed on appeal unless clearly wrong.
10. Workers' Compensation: Evidence: Appeal and Error. If the record contains evidence to substantiate the factual conclusions reached by the trial judge of the compensation court, an appellate court is precluded from substituting its view of the facts for that of the compensation court.
11. Workers' Compensation: Proof. To establish a change in incapacity under Neb.Rev.Stat. § 48-141 (Reissue 2010), an applicant must show a change in impairment and a change in disability.
[287 Neb. 117] 12. Workers' Compensation: Words and Phrases. In a workers' compensation context, impairment refers to a medical assessment, whereas disability relates to employability.
13. Workers' Compensation: Words and Phrases. Under the workers' compensation law, " disability" refers to loss of earning capacity and not to functional or medical loss alone.
14. Workers' Compensation: Words and Phrases. Disability for purposes of the workers' compensation statutes is defined in terms of employability and earning capacity rather than in terms of loss of bodily function. In defining total disability, losses in bodily function are not important in themselves but are only important insofar as they relate to earning capacity and the loss thereof.
NATURE OF CASE
Lorna Rader sustained a compensable injury while she was employed by Speer Auto. The Nebraska Workers' Compensation Court filed an " Award" on March 30, 2007, and after Rader filed a petition to modify, the compensation court filed a " Further Award" on April 10, 2009. Rader filed another petition to modify on June 29, alleging that her " injury had materially and substantially worsened since April 10, 2009, necessitating a modification of the April 10, 2009 Further Award." Except for some medical expenses, Rader's petition to modify was denied.
In its order filed February 15, 2013, the Workers' Compensation Court found that Rader had not established a material and substantial change for the worse in her condition as required by Neb.Rev.Stat. § 48-141(2) (Reissue 2010) and that a modification was not warranted. It also found that Speer Auto had paid " in excess of the 300 weeks" and concluded in the alternative that under Neb.Rev.Stat. § 48-121(2) [287 Neb. 118] (Reissue 2010), Speer Auto could not be ordered to pay more even if Rader had established entitlement to a modification. Rader appeals.
Because we determine that the compensation court did not err when it found that Rader did not prove by a preponderance of the evidence a material and substantial change for the worse in her condition warranting a modification of the award ...