Welter v. LIRC (Worker’s Compensation)

In Welter v. LIRC (2018AP1940), the Court of Appeals District III held that the plaintiff’s surgery was not compensable under Worker’s Compensation because her workplace injury had healed before the surgery.

Plaintiff Susan Welter served as a school bus monitor for Student Transit – Eau Claire. Welter had a knee replacement in 2003. In 2013, she experienced some knee pain but declined to undergo a second knee replacement at that time. In 2014, she slipped and fell on ice at work, and doctors said the work injury could have exacerbated her preexisting knee condition. Welter had a second knee replacement surgery in March 2014. Welter’s doctor said that the workplace injury caused her to undergo the knee replacement earlier than she would have had to otherwise.

A doctor hired by Student Transit opined that the injury caused by the workplace accident had healed by February 2014. The need for knee replacement was not caused by the slip and fall. In fact, the knee replacement had been recommended in 2013, before the fall.

Welter and Student Transit entered into an agreement on most of Welter’s Worker’s Compensation claims, but Welter later filed a Worker’s Compensation claim for medical expenses for costs related to her second knee replacement.

The Labor and Industry Review Commission agreed with Student Transit’s doctor that the workplace injury had healed before Welter’s second knee replacement surgery, so the surgery was not compensable under Worker’s Compensation. The appeals court found there was credible and substantial evidence in the doctor’s testimony to support the Commission’s finding. Therefore, Student Transit and its insurer were not liable for medical expenses related to Welter’s knee replacement surgery.