Ian T. Hintz, appellant,
Farmers Cooperative Association, appellee.
Workers' Compensation: Appeal and Error.
Pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. § 48-185 (Cum. Supp. 2016),
an appellate court may modify, reverse, or set aside a
Workers' Compensation Court decision only when (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.
___:___. Findings of fact made by the Workers'
Compensation Court have the same force and effect as a jury
verdict and will not be set aside unless clearly erroneous.
Workers' Compensation: Evidence: Appeal and
Error. When testing the sufficiency of the evidence
to support findings of fact made by the Workers'
Compensation Court trial judge, the evidence must be
considered in the light most favorable to the successful
party and the successful party will have the benefit of every
inference reasonably deducible from the evidence.
Workers' Compensation. The Nebraska
Workers' Compensation Act provides that when an employee
suffers personal injury caused by accident or occupational
disease, arising out of and in the course of his or her
employment, such employee shall receive compensation from his
or her employer if the employee was not willfully negligent
at the time of receiving such injury.
Workers' Compensation: Proof. In order
to recover under the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act,
a claimant has the burden of proving by a preponderance of
the evidence that an accident or occupational disease arising
out of and occurring in the course of employment proximately
caused an injury which resulted in disability compensable
under the act.
Neb. 904] 6. Workers'
Compensation: Expert Witnesses. If the nature and
effect of a claimant's injury are not plainly apparent,
then the claimant must provide expert medical testimony
showing a causal connection between the injury and the
Expert Witnesses. Triers of fact are not
required to take the opinions of experts as binding on them.
Workers' Compensation: Expert Witnesses.
It is the role of the Nebraska Workers' Compensation
Court as the trier of fact to determine which, if any, expert
witnesses to believe.
Workers' Compensation: Appeal and Error.
Where the record presents nothing more than conflicting
medical testimony, an appellate court will not substitute its
judgment for that of the Workers' Compensation Court.
Evidence: Words and Phrases. "Competent
evidence" is defined as that which is admissible and
relevant on the point in issue or, stated another way,
admissible and tending to establish a fact in issue.
Expert Witnesses. When the subject matter is
wholly scientific or so far removed from the usual and
ordinary experience of the average man that expert knowledge
is essential to the formation of an intelligent opinion, only
an expert can competently give opinion evidence as to the
cause of the physical condition.
Trial: Witnesses. The question as to the
competency of a witness must be initially determined by the
___:___. The credibility and weight of the testimony to be
given to a witness are for the trier of fact to determine.
Expert Witnesses: Physicians and Surgeons.
For purposes of determining whether a medical expert's
testimony is admissible, it is acceptable, in arriving at a
diagnosis, for a physician to rely on examinations and tests
performed by other medical practitioners.
for further review from the Court of Appeals, Inbody and
Pirtle, Judges, and McCormack, Retired Justice, on appeal
thereto from the Workers' Compensation Court, Thomas E.
Stine, Judge. Judgment of Court of Appeals reversed, and
cause remanded with direction.
R. Lamb and Richard W. Tast, Jr., of Anderson, Creager &
Wittstruck, PC, L.L.O., for appellant.
A. Kidd, of Engles, Ketcham, Olson & Keith, PC, for
Neb. 905] Heavican, C.J., Wright, Miller-Lerman, Cassel,
Stacy. Kelch, and Funke, JJ.
issues in this litigation were the nature and extent of a
work-related injury sustained by Ian T. Hintz, an employee of
Farmers Cooperative Association (Farmers). The Nebraska
Workers' Compensation Court found that Hintz'
work-related injury was fully resolved within 3 days of the
work accident and that Hintz' need for additional medical
treatment was the result of a non-work-related injury. Upon
appeal, the Nebraska Court of Appeals reversed the decision
and remanded the cause with directions for the court to
reconsider the claim in light of competent medical opinion of
causation and considering the beneficent purpose of the
Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act.
that there was sufficient competent evidence in the record to
support the Workers' Compensation Court's
determination that Hintz' work-related injury was fully
resolved prior to his fall on December 4, 2014. Therefore, we
reverse the holding of the Court of Appeals.
Thursday, November 13, 2014, Hintz was employed by Farmers as
a tire technician and was repairing a semitrailer tire, when
the tire exploded. At the time of the explosion, Hintz was
kneeling directly in front of the tire. As a result of the
explosion, Hintz was thrown approximately 10 feet and landed
on his back. He could not feel his legs, had pain in his
groin and hips, and heard "a whistling" in his
ears. Within a few minutes, Hintz was able to get up and
walk, but he had limited use of his right leg.
the pain Hintz was experiencing, he left work immediately
after the explosion and did not return until the [297 Neb.
906] following Monday. However, Hintz did not seek medical
care for his injuries in the days immediately following the
incident. Hintz indicated that upon returning to work, he was
able to work only "a little" at that time.
contrary, Farmers offered evidence which suggested that in
the days and weeks after Hintz returned to work, he was able
to complete all of his job requirements. Such evidence
included Hintz' payroll records and the testimony of his
coworkers that Hintz resumed his normal job duties without
any notable problems.
December 4, 2014, while walking up a set of stairs at home,
Hintz tripped and fell, hitting his hip. Hintz sought medical
treatment the next day with Dr. James Gallentine, an
orthopedic doctor. Hintz told Gallentine that he was
suffering from pain in his right leg which began the night
before, when he tripped on his stairs and hit his right hip
and knee. Hintz also told Gallentine about the November 13
incident at work; however, he said that since that incident,
he had returned to work and "was jumping on and off
trucks without any difficulty." Based upon his
evaluation, Gallentine prescribed pain medication for Hintz
and told him not to return to work for a few days.
pain in Hintz' right hip and leg did not resolve, and as
a result, Gallentine ordered an MRI, which revealed that
Hintz was suffering from a "superior labral tear and
also some irregularity in the posterior labrum with a
possible paralabral cyst forming." Gallentine referred
Hintz to Dr. Justin Harris, an orthopedic doctor, "for a
possible hip arthroscopy" and directed Hintz to remain
off work until further notice. Hintz then completed an
application for short-term disability benefits from Farmers.
On the application, Hintz indicated that he was temporarily,
totally disabled and that his condition was not related to
December 30, 2014, Harris examined Hintz. In his examination
notes, Harris indicated that Hintz had been experiencing pain
in his right hip since December 4, when he [297 Neb. 907]
"tripped going up stairs." ...