West Virginia Record

Friday, November 22, 2019

Justices back decision to reject coal miner's application for work-related injury


By Kyla Asbury | Sep 25, 2019

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CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals found that a coal miner failed to establish that he suffered a work-related injury and that the West Virginia Workers' Compensation Board of Review decision to deny a claim.

"After review, we agree with the findings of fact and conclusions of law of the Office of Judges, as affirmed by the Board of Review," the Sept. 3 decision said.

Kim Bowles, a coal miner, consulted Dr. Syed Zahir for pain and numbness in both of his hands in 2016. He was diagnosed with bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. Bowles completed an application for workers' compensation benefits for carpal tunnel syndrome on Dec. 27, 2016, and he was referred to Dr. Prasadaro Mukkamala for an independent medical evaluation.

Mukkamala said the carpal tunnel could have been caused by two other factors: diabetes and obesity. The claims administrator rejected Bowles' application.

Another issue: Bowles stopped working as a coal miner in 2012 but did not submit a claim until Dec. 27, 2016. The claims administrator rejected the claim July 7, 2017.

The West Virginia Workers’ Compensation Office of Judges affirmed the claims administrator’s decision in February 2018, and the Board of Review entered a final order Aug. 17, 2018.

The appeals court said Bowles failed to establish that he suffers from work-related carpal tunnel syndrome and that although he presented evidence of a diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome by his physician, the only opinion as to causation within the record is from another physician, who opined that the carpal tunnel syndrome was not causally related to his occupational activities, according to the decision.

"The fact that Mr. Bowles ceased work in 2012 and experienced increased symptoms for three to four years before filing for benefits is consistent with Dr. Mukkamala’s opinion," the decision said. "The record supports the decision of the Board of Review."

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals case No. 18-0797

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