Vallier v. LIRC (Worker’s Compensation)

In Vallier v. LIRC (2018AP936), the Court of Appeals District I held that the plaintiff was not entitled to worker’s compensation because her pre-existing condition was not aggravated by a minor injury at work.

Nurse Tamara Vallier hit her elbow against a wall while working for Aurora Health Care at St. Luke’s Medical Center. Vallier subsequently experienced pain and tingling in her right arm and sought several medical opinions. The doctors’ opinions agreed that Vallier had a pre-existing condition in her cervical spine that required surgery. However, the opinions conflicted on whether the minor elbow injury caused or aggravated the pre-existing condition.

The Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC) decided that Vallier was not entitled to worker’s compensation because, according to one doctor, the pre-existing cervical spine condition could not have been aggravated or caused by the way Vallier hit her elbow at work. The court upheld LIRC’s decision, agreeing that the decision was supported by the doctor’s opinion. The decision was also supported by the fact that Vallier had failed to disclose to her doctors that she had seen her family physician to be treated for pain in her shoulder before the work incident.

On appeal, Vallier further argued that LIRC’s decision should be overturned because of a factual error related to when she first complained of neck pain. The court (and LIRC) conceded the error but held that the error was not material to LIRC’s otherwise supported decision.