Is it a Symptom or a Condition, and Does it Matter?

A recent case out of the 10th Appellate District addressed an issue I’ve raised many times at hearing, whether a claim can be allowed for “radiculitis”.  My argument, which has generally been successful, is that a claim cannot be allowed for radiculitis because radiculitis is a symptom of an underlying condition.  However, the 10th Appellate District recently issued an opinion which suggests otherwise.

In Ellis v. Columbus Dev. Ctr., 10th Dist. No. 17AP-384, 2018-Ohio-933, the 10th Appellate District Court of Appeals considered an appeal to directed verdict rendered on behalf of the employer on the grounds that radiculitis did not constitute an allowable condition in a workers’ compensation claim.

In its decision, the court addressed the cases of Edney v. Life Ambulance Service, Inc., 10th Dist. No. 11AP-1090, 2012-Ohio-4305 and Foor v. Rockwell Internatl., 5th Dist. No. 92 CA 109 (August 10, 1993).  In each of those cases, the courts found that chest pain (in Edney) and radiculopathy (in Foor) were not separate injuries that could be allowed in a workers’ compensation claim.

The 10th Appellate District Court, however, distinguished those cases, on the grounds that in those cases, there was no expert testimony to support the argument that the requested allowances constituted medical conditions in and of themselves.  In Ellis however, the court stated that:

Unlike the evidence in Edney and Foor, in the present case Dr. Zimpfer’s testimony was equivocal with respect to whether Ellis’s lumbar radiculitis constituted a symptom of some other underlying condition or a stand-alone condition itself. The portions of Dr. Zimpfer’s testimony cited by the trial court in granting the motion for directed verdict indicated that Ellis’s lumbar radiculitis was a pain symptom associated with a disc herniation. By contrast, other portions of Dr. Zimpfer’s testimony, cited by Ellis on appeal and quoted above, indicated his opinion that the lumbar radiculitis was a unique condition, distinct from the other herniated disc conditions.

Accordingly, the 10th Appellate District Court found that directed verdict was not appropriate because of the existence of conflicting evidence regarding the symptom/condition issue.

We will have to see whether this issue comes before the Supreme Court of Ohio.  In the meantime, I think the argument that radiculopathy is not an allowable condition still holds, with the disclaimer that at least one appellate court feels otherwise.

 

 

 

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