Kloepfer v. Lumbermen's Mutual Casualty Co.

916 P.2d 1310, 276 Mont. 495 (1996)

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Kloepfer v. Lumbermen’s Mutual Casualty Co.

Montana Supreme Court
916 P.2d 1310, 276 Mont. 495 (1996)

Facts

Victoria Kloepfer (plaintiff) was employed by Bechtel Construction Company (Bechtel) at the Conoco refinery as a general laborer when she suffered an injury. Kloepfer filed an occupational-disease claim, which was accepted. Kloepfer participated in a program as part of her rehabilitation, but she suffered a back injury in April 1992 in that program. Dr. Teal performed a lumbar fusion to alleviate the pain Kloepfer was experiencing, but it did not work. Kloepfer filed for permanent disability benefits. At the time of trial, Kloepfer was not receiving treatment and had reached maximum healing. Kloepfer contended that she was incapable of gainful employment as a result of the pain and was thus permanently and totally disabled. Lumbermen’s Mutual Casualty Company (defendant) requested that Kloepfer be evaluated by an independent medical panel. The medical panel determined that Kloepfer was capable of sedentary work full-time and concluded that she suffered from somatoform disorder. Dr. Teal testified that Kloepfer could work part-time with significant absenteeism. The Montana Workers’ Compensation Court found that Kloepfer’s pain did not render her incapable of returning to work and denied permanent total-disability benefits. The court found that Kloepfer’s lack of motivation fueled the pain she claimed prevented her from working. The district court affirmed the denial. Kloepfer appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Erdmann, J.)

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