City of Petaluma v. Workers' Compensation Appeals BoardAnnotate this Case
Lindh, a law enforcement officer, took blows to the head during training. He subsequently had severe headaches lasting between several hours and two days. A month later, Lindh suddenly lost most of the vision in his left eye. Two treating physicians did not believe the vision loss was related to the blows. Dr. Kaye, a neuro-ophthalmologist, the Qualified Medical Examiner (QME), agreed with the other physicians, that Lindh’s “blood circulation to his left eye was defective,” absent the injury,” Lindh likely would have retained a lot of his vision. He agreed that even had Lindh not suffered the blows, he could have lost his vision due to this underlying condition; it was “unlikely” Lindh would have suffered a vision loss if he had not had the underlying “vascular spasticity,” a rare condition. His professional opinion was that: 85% of the permanent disability was due to his old condition and 15% was due to the work injury. The ALJ rejected that analysis and found Lindh had 40 percent permanent disability without apportionment between his underlying condition and the work-related injury. The Board affirmed, concluding that the preexisting conditions were mere risk factors for an injury entirely caused by industrial factors; the QME had “confused causation of injury with causation of disability.” The court of appeal ordered an apportioned award. Dr. Kaye’s opinion was consistent with the other physicians' opinions, that it was unlikely the trauma caused the loss of vision. Whether an asymptomatic preexisting condition that contributed to the disability would, alone, have inevitably resulted in disability, is immaterial.