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Wyatt v. Rescare Home Care

Supreme Court of Delaware

November 20, 2013

Amanda WYATT, Employee Below, Appellant,
v.
RESCARE HOME CARE, Employer Below, Appellee.

Submitted: Oct. 23, 2013.

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Court Below— Superior Court of the State of Delaware, in and for Sussex County, C.A. No. S12A-06-004.

Upon appeal from the Superior Court. REVERSED and REMANDED.

Kenneth F. Carmine, Esquire (argued) and Tiffany M. Shrenk, Esquire, Potter, Carmine & Associates, P.A., Wilmington, Delaware, for appellant.

Linda Wilson, Esquire, Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin, Wilmington, Delaware, for appellee.

Before HOLLAND, BERGER and RIDGELY, Justices.

HOLLAND, Justice:

The claimant-appellee and cross-appellant-appellant, Amanda Wyatt (" Wyatt" or the " Claimant" ), appeals from a Superior Court judgment reversing an Industrial Accident Board (the " Board" ) finding that she had a compensable, work-related injury. The employer-appellant and cross-appellee-appellee is Wyatt's former employer, Rescare Home Care (" Rescare" ). Wyatt raises two claims on appeal. First, she contends the Superior Court erred in reversing the Board's decision that her injury was a compensable industrial accident, since the Board's decision was based upon substantial evidence. Second, she submits that the Board erred in denying the medical expenses for her emergency back surgery.

We have concluded that the Superior Court erred in reversing the Board's decision that the Claimant had a compensable work related injury. We have also concluded that the Board properly determined that her back surgery was not compensable. Therefore, the judgment of the Superior Court is reversed.

Facts

The facts as found by the Board are as follows. The Claimant worked for Rescare as a certified nursing assistant for four to five years before she was injured. She primarily worked with a five-year-old boy, Isaac, who was completely dependent upon her. In addition to other duties, Claimant was charged with bathing, feeding, and transferring Isaac from his chair to his stand or to the floor and back, all without assistance. The Claimant would perform transfers of Isaac throughout the day while attending to him at school, as well as at Isaac's home three days per week.

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Isaac weighed about fifty-five pounds at the time of the accident.

The Claimant began experiencing lower back pain on October 21, 2010 when she bent over to pick to something up in her home. After trying to work through the pain, she was eventually forced to go to the emergency room. She was diagnosed with a pulled muscle and given a prescription for both muscle relaxers and pain medication. No tests were ordered, and the Claimant did not attempt to seek further treatment at that time.

On Friday, December 10, 2010, the Claimant began experiencing lower back pain again. She thought it was simply the result of frequent work. She did not work that weekend, and took off an additional day on Monday, December 13, 2010 to rest.

On Wednesday, December 15, 2010, the Claimant met Isaac at his school in order to resume her work duties, though her lower back pain continued. When she transferred Isaac for lunch, the Claimant's back pain ceased, but her leg went numb and she felt the urgency to urinate. She headed immediately for a restroom, and was witnessed by a school physical therapist to be dragging her left foot, which was numb. Her whole perineal area was numb when using the restroom.

The Claimant called her mother, who works for a general surgeon's office. The Claimant's mother relayed the above symptoms to Dr. Tatineni, one of the surgeons for whom the Claimant's mother works. Dr. Tatineni said that the Claimant needed to see Dr. Balapur Venkataramana (" Dr. Venkataramana" ), who is a neurosurgeon, right away. When an appointment could not be had before Monday, December 20, 2010, Dr. Tatineni called Dr. Venkataramana directly, and Dr. Venkataramana agreed to see the Claimant on Friday, December 17, 2010.

While in Dr. Venkataramana's waiting room on Friday, December 17, 2010, Dr. Venkataramana's receptionist overheard the Claimant speaking to her mother about work, and informed the Claimant and her mother that Dr. Venkataramana does not take workers' compensation cases. She also informed the Claimant that if her case was a workers' compensation claim, she would have to go elsewhere for treatment. The Claimant, fearful that she would not be able to be seen immediately by another doctor, ...


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