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Perkins v. Puna Plantation Hawaii, Ltd.

Intermediate Court of Appeals of Hawai‘i

September 13, 2013

James K. PERKINS, Claimant-Appellee,
v.
PUNA PLANTATION HAWAII, LTD., Employer-Appellant, and Hawaii Employers' Mutual Insurance Company, Inc., Insurance Carrier-Appellant, and Special Compensation Fund, Appellee.

Editorial Note:

This decision has been designated as "Unpublished disposition." in the Pacific Reporter. See HI R RAP RULE 35

Appeal from the Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board (AB 2010-035(WH) (9-08-00382)).

Robert E. McKee, Jr., on the brief, for Employer-Appellant.

NAKAMURA, C.J., FOLEY and REIFURTH, JJ.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Employer-Appellant Puna Plantation Hawaii, Ltd. (Employer) and Insurance Carrier-Appellant Hawaii Employers' Mutual Insurance Company, Inc. (collectively, Appellants) appeal from the May 22, 2012 Decision and Order of the Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board (LIRAB). On appeal, Appellants contend the LIRAB erred in concluding Claimant-Appellee James K. Perkins [1] (Claimant) may be entitled to future medical care, services, and supplies (treatment) pursuant to Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) § 386-21 (2012).

I. BACKGROUND

Claimant was a stock clerk for Employer. On March 1, 2008, Claimant sustained an injury to his low back while bending and lifting a case of rice. He filed a claim for workers' compensation, and following a hearing held August 1, 2008, the Director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (Director) issued a decision concluding Claimant had suffered a compensable work injury.

On October 28, 2009, the Director held a second hearing to address several issues, including whether Claimant was entitled to further medical treatment. The Director issued a supplemental decision on December 2, 2009, concluding Claimant was entitled to treatment from March 1, 2008 through October 28, 2009, the date of the hearing. The Director credited the reports of Lome Direnfeld, M .D. (Dr. Direnfeld) and Joseph Rogers, Ph.D. (Dr. Rogers), who concluded Claimant's work injury had caused at most a temporary aggravation of a pre-existing medical condition.

Claimant appealed the supplemental decision to the LIRAB on December 9, 2009. At the initial conference before the LIRAB, Employer argued the Director erred in concluding Claimant was entitled to receive treatment after October 7, 2008. Employer based its argument on a report by Dr. Direnfeld, who had examined Claimant on October 7, 2008 and concluded that Claimant's temporary aggravation had resolved by the time of that evaluation. Consequently, the LIRAB's pretrial order stated that one of the issues to be determined on the appeal was whether Employer was liable for, and Claimant entitled to, treatment after October 7, 2008.

The LIRAB issued its Decision and Order on May 22, 2012, stating its findings of fact and conclusions of law. The conclusion of law (COL) at issue in this appeal, COL 1, states:

1. The [LIRAB] concludes the Employer may be liable for, and Claimant entitled to [treatment] after October 7, 2008.
As the [LIRAB] has previously opined on Section 386-21, HRS, in Jochola v. Maui Economic Opportunity, Inc. et al.; AB 2005-206(M) (September 25, 2008):
The entitlement of an injured worker to receive [treatment] as the nature of the injury requires for so long as reasonably needed is one of the core components of compensation. Simply because an injury returns to pre-work injury status does not necessarily mean that the duty to pay compensation ends. Absent a showing of an intervening or superseding event or cause (see, for example, Diaz v. Oahu Sugar Co., Ltd.,77 Haw. 152 (1994)), fraud ( see HRS § 386-98(e)), or other appropriate terminating event, there is a likelihood that such obligation to provide [treatment] will not terminate. No such terminating event has been shown in this case. However, a claimant's entitlement to such care, services, and supplies is dependent upon all other requirements of Chapter 386, HRS and the Hawaii Workers' Compensation ...

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