APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT HUGHES COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE MARK C. BARNETT Judge
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Severson, Justice
DENNIS W. FINCH of Finch Maks, Prof. LLC Rapid City, South Dakota Attorneys for appellant. CHARLES A. LARSON of Boyce, Greenfield, Pashby & Welk,LLP Sioux Falls, South Dakota Attorneys for appellees.
CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS ON NOVEMBER 16, 2011
[¶1.] Mark Dennis McQuay received workers' compensation benefits for a neck and back injury he suffered on October 22, 2002, while working for Fischer Furniture. After his workers' compensation benefits were discontinued in March 2004, McQuay sought treatment for a low back condition. He petitioned the Department of Labor (Department) for workers' compensation benefits. The Department ruled McQuay did not prove his low back condition was related to his original October 22, 2002 work injury. The circuit court entered an order affirming the decision of the Department. We affirm.
[¶2.] McQuay was an employee at CarpetMart in Rapid City, South Dakota. CarpetMart is one of several stores owned by Fischer Furniture. McQuay's duties at CarpetMart included cutting carpet and vinyl remnants. He also worked in the warehouse and was frequently required to carry rolls of carpet and linoleum within the store. On October 22, 2002, while McQuay was carrying a bolt remnant on his shoulder, another remnant fell and struck McQuay on the head. Immediately after this incident, McQuay felt sore in his lower back and neck. McQuay had not been treated or diagnosed with back or neck problems prior to this incident.
[¶3.] The next day, at the direction of Fischer Furniture, McQuay was examined by Dr. Wayne Anderson at the Spearfish Health Center. Dr. Anderson assessed McQuay with a head contusion and neck pain. On October 30, 2002, McQuay saw Dr. Anderson a second time, complaining of low back pain primarily on the right side. Dr. Anderson conducted another examination of McQuay and noted that his "[l]ow back has good range of motion with some tenderness on the right at the L2-L3 area." Dr. Anderson diagnosed McQuay with lumbar strain.
[¶4.] Dr. Anderson examined McQuay again on December 2, 2002 and assessed him with "low back pain with right L5 radiculopathy." Dr. Anderson ordered an MRI of McQuay's lumbar spine. On December 9, 2002, an MRI of McQuay's low back was performed at Black Hills Imaging Center. A doctor reviewed the MRI image and drafted a report indicating McQuay had a "normal MRI of the lumbar spine."
[¶5.] Dr. Anderson referred McQuay to Dr. Mark Simonson at The Rehab Doctors. McQuay visited Dr. Simonson on December 11, 2002. After conducting an examination of McQuay's low back, Dr. Simonson diagnosed McQuay with lumbar strain. McQuay continued to see Dr. Simonson to treat the pain in his low back. Several of Dr. Simonson's treatment notes indicate McQuay's low back pain improved while he treated with Dr. Simonson. In a January 24, 2003 record, Dr. Simonson stated McQuay was "doing well regarding his low back" and his "[l]ow back is doing good."
[¶6.] McQuay's workers' compensation benefits were discontinued as of March 2004. Although McQuay continued to undergo treatment for problems with his upper back and neck, he did not report experiencing low back pain until June 30, 2005, when he visited the Rapid City Community Health Center complaining of "left lower back pain radiating into his left thigh and upper calf." On August 5, 2005, McQuay sought treatment for his low back pain with Dr. Christopher Dietrich at The Rehab Doctors. Dr. Dietrich's notes indicate McQuay reported a "recurrence of low back pain with no known injury." His records further indicate McQuay had experienced lower back pain in 2002 and 2003, but that this pain "resolved."
[¶7.] McQuay sought treatment for his low back pain with Dr. John Lassegard at the Rapid City Community Health Center on October 4, 2005. According to Dr. Lassegard's records, McQuay reported experiencing "pain radiating to the lateral part of his thigh down to his knee over the last several months, getting worse." An MRI of McQuay's low back was conducted on October 7, 2005. Dr. Lassegard reviewed the MRI image and reported that it showed disc protrusions in McQuay's lumbar spine.
[¶8.] McQuay did not seek additional treatment for his low back until August 8, 2007, when McQuay saw Dr. Tim Watt for a "new complaint of low back pain with some pain going down into the left leg." Dr. Watt's records indicate McQuay's low back pain "came on fairly spontaneously" and did not "have any specific precipitator." A third MRI was performed on August 8, 2007. After reviewing the MRI image, Dr. Watt reported that it showed a "new protrusion left L4-5."
[¶9.] A hearing was held before the Department of Labor on the limited issue of whether the original October 22, 2002 injury was a major contributing cause of McQuay's low back condition.*fn1 The Department ruled McQuay did not meet his burden of proving the original October 22, 2002 work injury was a major contributing cause of the low back condition McQuay has suffered from since ...