TERA L. HENDRICKSON, Appellant,
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND INDUSTRIES OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON, Respondent.
the Industrial Insurance Act, Title 51 RCW, an injured worker
can file an application to reopen a claim to obtain
additional medical treatment for aggravation of the
injury. Established case law requires the worker
to present some objective medical evidence that the injury
has worsened since the closure of the claim. In 2007, Tera
Hendrickson suffered a mid- and low-back injury while working
as a truck driver. In 2012, the Washington State Department
of Labor and Industries closed the claim with a permanent
partial disability award for a category 4 permanent
dorso-lumbar and/or lumbosacral impairment. In September
2013, Hendrickson filed an application to reopen her claim.
Substantial evidence supports finding Hendrickson did not
present objective medical evidence that the injury worsened
since the department closed the claim. We affirm the superior
court decision upholding dismissal of the application to
Hendrickson worked for Staffmark LLC-Pacific as a truck
driver. On October 9, 2007, Hendrickson "heard and felt
a pop" in her middle and lower back when she stepped out
of a truck at work. On October 19, Hendrickson filed a claim
for disability benefits. The Washington State Department of
Labor and Industries (Department) allowed the claim and paid
benefits. Hendrickson underwent back surgery and received
several rounds of physical therapy, cortisone injections, and
continued to have "pain in her head, neck, mid-back, and
low back, as well as sciatic pain ... and numbness."
When Hendrickson saw orthopedic spine surgeon Dr. Michael
Martin on April 16, 2012, she reported "ongoing pain all
over." Dr. Martin diagnosed Hendrickson with
"postlaminectomy syndrome lumbar spine, sprain-strain,
and cervical radiculopathy."
10, 2012, the Department closed her claim with a permanent
partial disability award for "category 4 permanent
dorso-lumbar and/or lumbosacral
moved to Hawaii and in May 2013, enrolled in school to
complete her bachelor's degree. In July 2013, Hendrickson
moved back to Washington and started working for Freight
Northwest, driving a truck with flatbed trailers.
September 25, 2013, Hendrickson filed an application to
reopen her industrial injury claim. Hendrickson saw Dr.
Martin on January 6, 2014. Hendrickson "was again
complaining of pain ... 'all over.'" Dr. Martin
examined Hendrickson and ordered "repeat
scans of her cervical and lumbar spine[ ]." The 2014 MRI
scans were "essentially unchanged from the scans
performed previously in the cervical spine in 2011 and the
lumbar spine in 2012."
February 12, 2014, the Department denied the application to
reopen the claim. The "Notice of Decision" states,
"The medical record shows the conditions caused by the
injury have not worsened since the final claim closure."
Hendrickson filed a motion for reconsideration. The
Department issued a Notice of Decision affirming denial of
the application to reopen.
appealed the decision to the Washington State Board of
Industrial Insurance Appeals (Board). An industrial appeals
judge (IAJ) held a hearing. Hendrickson, her daughter, and a
friend of Hendrickson's testified. Hendrickson submitted
the deposition testimony of Dr. Martin. The IAJ admitted the
deposition testimony into evidence.
Martin testified that when he saw Hendrickson on January 6,
2014, he performed a "review of symptoms" and a
physical examination. The review of symptoms was
"unremarkable." The physical examination showed
"[m]otor strength was normal in the upper and lower
extremities" but "[s]ensation was decreased in the
dermatome on the left, the C7 dermatome on the left, the C8
and Tl dermatomes also on the left." Dr.
Martin ordered repeat MRI scans.
Martin compared the results of the January 17, 2014 MRI scans
with the 2011 and 2012 MRI scans. Dr. Martin testified that
"the problems indicated by the MRI" are
"considered objective." Dr. Martin testified the
MRI results were "essentially unchanged." Dr.
Martin testified the January 2014 MRI showed "multilevel
cervical spine disk and facet degeneration" that was
"similar when compared" to the August 18, 2011 MRI.
Q What, if anything, did you learn from those  scans?
A They were essentially unchanged from the scans performed
previously in the cervical spine in 2011 and the lumbar spine
Martin said Hendrickson "had similar symptoms for
several years dating from [the] injury of 2007." Dr.
Martin testified on "a medically more-probable-than-not
basis, " Hendrickson was "feeling worse."
Q ... In this case, on a medically more-probable-than-not
basis, do you believe that Ms. Hendrickson's symptoms are
A Yes, she is feeling worse.
Martin stated, "I cannot disagree" with the
conclusion of independent medical examiner Dr. James Kopp
that there was " 'nothing on the physical
examination or in the MRI studies that would indicate
criteria that would qualify for objective evidence of
reopening.'" Dr. Kopp concluded, in pertinent part:
"The reopening application indicates we need to
determine that she is worse than a Category 4, which
apparently has been awarded for her dorsolumbar and
lumbosacral impairment. There is nothing on the physical
examination that would suggest worse than a Category 4. . . .
While we sympathize that the claimant has ongoing discomfort,
she is functional and is working as a truck driver, and there
is nothing on the physical examination or in the MRI studies
that would indicate criteria that would qualify for objective
evidence of reopening."
asked what evidence "supports reopening of the claim,
" Dr. Martin testified, "I believe that she
subjectively feels worse." Dr. Martin testified that in
his opinion, the "conditions related to the October of
2007 industrial injury have worsened . ..
[s]ubjectively." Dr. Martin conceded that there were
"no objective findings of worsening" and that his