KATHRYNE L. CONNER, Appellant,
HARRISON MEDICAL CENTER and DEPARTMENT OF LABOR & INDUSTRIES OF WASHINGTON, Respondent.
Conner appeals the superior court's denial of her motion
for attorney fees after her partially successful appeal of a
Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals (BIIA) decision
relating to her March 2010 industrial injury. She relies on
RCW 51.52.130(1), which provides that the superior court
shall award reasonable attorney fees to an injured worker on
appeal of a BIIA decision if the BIIA's decision is
reversed or modified and "additional relief is
granted" to the worker.
superior court jury verdict affirmed all of the BIIA's
findings regarding Conner's claim except one. Contrary to
the BIIA's finding, the jury found that Conner's
March 2010 industrial injury caused or aggravated her lumbar
degenerative disc disease. Pursuant to this verdict, the
superior court's judgment directed the Department of
Labor and Industries (DLI) to issue an order allowing the
lumbar degenerative disc disease under Conner's
industrial injury claim. But the court also directed that the
claim be closed without the payment of any further benefits.
argues that the superior court erred in denying her motion
for attorney fees because allowing the lumbar degenerative
disc disease condition constituted "additional
relief." However, we conclude that the superior
court's ruling was not a grant of "additional relief
under RCW 51.52.130(1) because the court did not order DLI to
pay any further benefits to Conner and whether the
court's ruling will benefit Connor in the future is
speculative. Accordingly, we affirm the superior court's
denial of Conner's motion for attorney fees.
worked for Harrison Medical Center (HMC) as an occupational
therapist from 2006 through 2010. On March 10, 2010, she was
injured in the course of her employment, sustaining sprain
injuries to her low back and left shoulder. Conner filed a
claim with DLI seeking benefits in connection with this
received treatment for her injuries, including visits to a
nurse practitioner with HMC Employee Health, follow up
appointments with her primary care physician, and massage
therapy. An MRI showed advanced degenerative disc disease in
her lumbar spine. DLI apparently paid for Conner's
medical treatment. Conner also received time-loss benefits
beginning in September 2010.
18, 2012, DLI issued an order ending Conner's time-loss
benefits as paid through June 30, 2012 and closed her claim
without awarding a permanent partial disability. On October
3, 2013, DLI issued an order affirming the July 18 order.
Conner appealed the DLI order to the BIIA.
BIIA affirmed DLI's order. The BIIA made the following
finding of fact: "Before March 10, 2010, Kathryne L.
Conner had degenerative disc disease of the cervical,
thoracic, and lumbar spine, including at L5-S1. These
conditions were not proximately caused or aggravated by her
March 10, 2010 industrial injury?' Clerk's
Papers (CP) at 20 (emphasis added). The BIIA concluded that
Conner's thoracolumbar sprain condition arising from her
employment was fixed and stable as of September 17, 2013 and
that she was not entitled to further treatment.
BIIA also concluded that (1) Connor was not temporarily
totally disabled from July 1, 2012 through October 3, 2013,
and (2) the conditions caused or aggravated by the March 2010
industrial injury were fixed and stable as of October 3, 2013
and were not entitled to further treatment.
appealed the BIIA's decision to the superior court. The
jury returned a verdict finding that the BIIA's decision
was correct in all respects except for the finding that the
March 2010 industrial injury did not cause or aggravate
Conner's degenerative disc disease in her lumbar spine.
Instead, the jury answered "yes" to the question of
whether the March 2010 industrial injury proximately caused
or aggravated Conner's lumbar degenerative disc disease.
But the jury found that the BIIA was correct regarding the
other two conclusions and was correct in determining that
Conner was not permanently and totally disabled.
superior court entered a judgment and order based on the
jury's verdict. The judgment reversed the BIIA's
finding of fact that Conner's industrial injury did not
proximately cause or aggravate her lumbar degenerative disc
disease. The court also reversed the BIIA's conclusion of
law that the lumbar degenerative disc disease was not
included in the enumeration of conditions allowed under
Conner's claim. The court therefore reversed the
BIIA's October 3, 2013 order and directed DLI to
issue an order allowing the condition described as
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine under
[Conner's claim] effective July 18, 2012, then to issue a
subsequent order closing this claim effective July 18, 2012
without further time loss compensation, award for permanent
partial disability, and without award for total permanent
CP at 244-45.
moved for an award of her attorney fees and costs under RCW
51.52.130. The superior court denied Conner's motion. The
court found that the jury's reversal of the BIIA's
decision regarding lumbar degenerative disc disease did not
entitle Conner to "additional relief because the jury
did not grant additional benefits, treatment, or awards, and
the only practical effect of the decision was to reverse one
element of the BIIA's decision on a claim that remained
closed. The court also denied Conner's motion for
appeals the superior court's denial of her motion for