On appeal from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Division of Workers' Compensation, Claim Petition No. 2007-21166.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 25, 2010
Before Judges Fisher and Sapp-Peterson.
Appellant, Sheila Condi, appeals from the September 1, 2009*fn1 order of the Division of Workers' Compensation (Division) denying her temporary total disability benefits. We affirm.
Condi was employed as a materials handler by respondent, Compucom. On July 11, 2007, she sustained work-related injuries to her left hand, arm, and shoulder during a lifting movement. She went on authorized sick leave on August 16, which was followed by surgery performed on her shoulder in September by Dr. Craig Rosen and surgery on her left forearm, left elbow and left wrist performed by Dr. John Bednar in March 2008. CompuCom offered Condi a light duty assignment in May, but Dr. Bednar had not cleared her to return to work, including light duty.
In a June 3, 2008 Work Status Report, Dr. Bednar recommended a "Psych Consult." In response to this recommendation, respondent scheduled Condi for evaluation with Dr. William M. Holl, Jr., a psychiatrist, who opined, on the basis of his evaluation, that Condi was suffering from "chronic anxiety and chronic depression which pre-exists and is unrelated to the accident of July 11, 2007."
In a July 18, 2008 letter, respondent advised Condi of the following:
It is Company policy that, unless otherwise required by law, once an associate has been on an approved medical leave for a continuous twelve (12) months, the Associate's employment with CompuCom will be terminated. Your workers' compensation benefits are not affected by your end of employment.
If you are still unable to return to work, your employment will terminate effective August 17, 2008.
Condi did not return to work and was therefore terminated, effective August 17. On August 11, she had filed her first "motion for temporary and/or medical benefits" seeking psychiatric treatment based upon Dr. Bednar's June 3 prescription for a psychiatric "consultation, evaluation and treatment" for "reactive depression." Respondent opposed the motion, relying upon Dr. Holl's conclusion that Condi's chronic depression pre-existed and was unrelated to the July 11, 2007 accident.*fn2
Although terminated from her employment with respondent, Condi continued to receive her temporary disability benefits. On December 9, Dr. Bednar discharged Condi from orthopedic care and authorized her to return to work with permanent weight-lifting restrictions. Dr. Bednar's discharge note made no reference to the need for psychiatric treatment. On December 10, Condi, on her own, presented to Dr. Edward H. Tobe, a psychiatrist, for an evaluation. This was her first effort to seek a psychiatric evaluation since the June 3 referral for a psychiatric consult from Dr. Bednar and the July 24 evaluation performed by Dr. Holl at respondent's request in which Dr. Holl opined that her chronic depression pre-existed and was unrelated to the July 11, 2007 work-related accident. Dr. Tobe diagnosed Condi as suffering from: a major depressive disorder, single episode moderate. Outpatient psychiatric treatment is warranted. Such treatment is curative in nature and directly related to her work injury. The [p]petitioner did have a history of panic attacks prior to her work injury and [that] has also been exacerbated. If this woman is going to be denied appropriate medical treatment as a direct result of her work injury[,] there is a major depressive disorder and an aggravation and acceleration of her pre-existing panic disorder causing a 50 percent permanent total psychiatric disability.
Dr. Tobe's report did not address Condi's ability to work. Based upon his recommendation, however, Condi filed a "motion for temporary and/or medical benefits" on January 28, 2009. In a February 25 order, Condi abandoned her motion based upon respondent's agreement to "provide treatment and/or temporary disability benefits" if Dr. James Hewitt, a psychiatrist, determined that such treatment was warranted.
Dr. Hewitt examined Condi on March 10 and, in a report of that same date, expressed the opinion that Condi suffered from a pre-existing anxiety disorder that "has been aggravated by the work injury of July 11, 2007" and that she "is totally and temporarily disabled and in need of curative psychiatric treatment." Based upon Dr. Hewitt's report, Condi's attorney corresponded with respondent's counsel seeking confirmation that respondent would reinstate "temporary disability benefits from January 1, 2009 and ongoing as we discussed." Respondent's counsel, in an April 17 letter, advised that respondent had authorized psychiatric treatment with Dr. Hewitt but requested that the attorneys confer to discuss Condi's request for temporary total disability ...