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Hanrahan v. Township of Sparta

September 25, 1995


On appeal from a judgment of the Division of Workers' Compensation.

Approved for Publication September 25, 1995.

Before Judges Shebell, Stern and Newman. The opinion of the court was delivered by Shebell, P.j.a.d.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shebell

The opinion of the court was delivered by


Employer Township of Sparta, appeals from the June 28, 1994 order of the Division of Workers' Compensation, granting petitioner, John F. Hanrahan, continued medical treatment. We affirm.

On February 8, 1992, petitioner was injured in an automobile accident during and in the course of his employment as a Township Police Officer. On November 30, 1992, he filed a Workers' Compensation Claim Petition alleging "injury to neck, right shoulder and low back with orthopedic residuals thereof" arising out of the accident. Respondent filed an answer admitting the "jurisdictional facts." Petitioner, by motion dated April 1, 1993, sought authorization for "on-going medical treatment in accordance with the recommendations of Dr. James L. Scales of Newton, N.J." Respondent filed an answering statement placing the issues in dispute and noting that "petitioner was evaluated by Dr. Dorsky on October 14, 1992 and was found to have reached maximum medical recovery."

Hearings were held on September 20, 1993, March 7, 1994 and March 28, 1994. On April 20, 1994, the Judge of Compensation rendered an oral decision granting petitioner additional medical benefits. On June 28, 1994, an order was entered requiring respondent to provide additional treatment "and to continue to provide treatment until the petitioner is relieved of the effects of the injury, is discharged from treatment or by further Order of this Court."

On February 8, 1992, the petitioner was in his patrol car, when another vehicle, going about forty-five miles per hour, struck his vehicle in the rear. Petitioner received emergency medical treatment at the Newton Memorial Hospital. X-rays were taken of his cervical spine and skull. The cervical spine x-ray showed degenerative changes at C4-C5. The hospital staff gave him a cervical collar and some medication and he was released.

A few days to a week after the accident, petitioner experienced "problems" with his lower back and sought follow up care. He first went to a chiropractor a couple of times. Then, upon advice from respondent's insurance carrier, on April 8, 1992, he began treatment with Dr. Scales. Dr. Scales made a diagnosis of acute cervical sprain and acute lumbosacral sprain. He prescribed medication, physical therapy and a home exercise program. The physical therapy included moist heat, electric stimulation, ultrasound, massage, and range of motion and stretching exercises.

With treatment, the problems with petitioner's neck, right shoulder and lower back improved somewhat over the next few weeks. Petitioner testified that at that point he still experienced sporadic sharp pain in the base of his neck and that his shoulder would cramp. He also testified that the pain in his lower back would not go away and that when it became unbearable he would take the pain medication prescribed by Dr. Scales. Dr. Scales continued to order physical therapy. By May 1992, the doctor had added to his diagnosis of petitioner's injuries a right thoracic outlet syndrome. By May 27, 1992, the doctor felt that petitioner's condition was improving but that he would require an epidural steroid injection since he had not responded to conventional measures thus far for the thoracic outlet syndrome. Petitioner noted significant relief of the low back symptoms as a result of the injection.

In August of 1992, Dr. Scales referred petitioner to a neurologist for a consultation. The neurologist reported that petitioner suffered from mild brachioplexitis. On September 23, 1992, Dr. Scales again updated his diagnosis of petitioner. His new diagnosis was cervical sprain nearly resolved, probable annulus tear of the lumbosacral spine, mild right brachioplexitis and compensatory rotator cuff tendonitis of the right shoulder secondary to paresthesias. He advised petitioner to continue physical therapy for the rotator cuff tendonitis.

In October 1992, petitioner was examined at the request of respondent's insurance carrier. At this time petitioner was still seeing Dr. Scales and was receiving physical therapy. As a result of respondent's doctor's examination and report, in November 1992, petitioner received notice from respondent's insurance carrier that "they were going to cancel the insurance benefits."

Petitioner also saw Dr. Dwyer, "a spine specialist," to whom he was referred by Dr. Scales, in November 1992. Dr. Dwyer gave petitioner facet joint and epidural injections. Petitioner did not see any doctor from November of 1992 until his last visit to Dr. Dwyer in July or ...

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