MARTHA MILLER, Employee, v. GREYHOUND LINES, INC., SELF-INSURED, Employer/Appellant, and NEW HOPE CRYSTAL MED., MINNESOTA DEP’T OF HUMAN SERVS., FAIRVIEW HEALTH SERVS., and PARK NICOLLET HEALTH SERVS., Intervenors.
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COURT OF APPEALS
FEBRUARY 22, 2013
NOTICE OF INJURY. Where the employee believed that she had provided medical information to the employer referring to the wrist injury and a first report of injury had been filed listing “multiple body parts” as part of the injury, and where the employer has not been prejudiced by any delay, the compensation judge could reasonably conclude that the employee’s delay in specifically reporting a wrist injury was due to mistake or inadvertence and that the employee had given adequate notice under Minn. Stat. § 176.141.
CAUSATION - SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE. Substantial evidence, including the employee’s testimony and expert medical opinions, supports the compensation judge’s finding that the employee sustained a right wrist injury as a result of a work incident.
TEMPORARY TOTAL DISABILITY - SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE. Where the employee was being treated for a wrist injury and had work restrictions related to that injury, substantial evidence supports the compensation judge’s finding that the employee was temporarily totally disabled until she was released to work without restrictions.
Determined by: Milun, C.J., Wilson, J., and Stofferahn, J.
Compensation Judge: Penny D. Johnson
Attorneys: James Michael Gallagher, Minneapolis, MN, for the Respondent. Michael J. Patera, MacMillan, Wallace, Athanases & Patera, Annandale, MN, for the Appellant.
PATRICIA J. MILUN, Chief Judge
The self-insured employer appeals the following findings of the compensation judge: (1) that the employee gave adequate notice of a wrist injury; (2) that she sustained a wrist injury during a work-related incident; and (3) that she was entitled to temporary total disability benefits. We affirm.
In 2008, Martha Miller, the employee, began working as a bus driver for Greyhound Lines, Inc., the employer, which was self-insured for workers’ compensation liability. The employee did not have a regular schedule, but filled in on vacant routes as needed. After driving a bus to Chicago on January 5, 2011, the employee was a passenger on a return bus to Minneapolis. On the way back, the bus started on fire and the passengers had to be evacuated from the bus at a rest stop. The passengers were not allowed to remove their luggage from the bus during the evacuation. The employee assisted with evacuating the bus and with organizing the passengers while waiting for the employer to send a replacement bus. After the fire was put out, some luggage was salvaged from the bus. A school bus was used to move the passengers to a motel until the other bus arrived. The employee testified that while she assisted a passenger in loading a large piece of luggage on the school bus, she injured her wrist when it was caught between the luggage and the rail on top of the partial wall by the bus steps. The employee did not report any injuries to the employer when she returned to Minneapolis that morning.
The employee returned to work and drove several runs for the employer. She testified that she felt stressed and often thought she smelled smoke while driving, and that her wrist began to bother her. She took Aleve for wrist pain, and then was concerned about driving since the medication made her sleepy. On January 19, 2011, the employee sought treatment at the urgent care department in Park Nicollet Clinic. The medical records from that visit do not indicate that the employee reported any problems with her wrist. The records do indicate that the employee reported stress and that she did not feel safe driving a bus. The records also reflect that the employee was referred for a post-traumatic stress evaluation.
The employee notified the employer of an injury on January 20, 2011, by providing medical information. A first report of injury indicates that the employee was “experiencing post-traumatic stress symptoms as a result of having to evacuate a burning bus.” The notice also states that the injury included “occupational disease or cumulative injury - - mental stress” and “multiple body parts.” The employer denied liability, claiming that there were no medical reports relating the employee’s condition to her employment and that compensation was not allowed for mental stress.
On January 20, 2011, the employee was evaluated by Dr. John Dunne at Park Nicollet Clinic. Dr. Dunne diagnosed probable post-traumatic stress and referred her for a mental health evaluation, noting that he did not consider her safe to drive. The employee underwent a psychological assessment by Dr. Steven Keller on January 28, 2011. Dr. Keller diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder, prescribed medication, and recommended individual psychotherapy, which the employee began on February 3, 2011.
The employee was also evaluated by Dr. Robert Johnson in the occupational medicine department at Park Nicollet Clinic on February 14, 2011. The employee reported right wrist pain since January 5, 2011. X-rays of the wrist indicated no fracture. Dr. Johnson assessed right wrist sprain and recommended use of a wrist splint. The employee remained off work. The employee returned to Dr. Dunne on March 1, 2011, for follow-up on her post-traumatic stress condition, which had improved significantly, and for her right wrist. Dr. Dunne noted that he had not treated her for a wrist injury until that date. The employee reported at that time that she injured her right wrist on January 5, 2011, when she and a passenger were lifting a piece of wet, heavy, salvaged luggage and it hit her wrist. Dr. Dunne noted some tenderness on examination and recorded that the wrist had been hyperflexed down, causing ongoing pain and discomfort. He recommended that the employee taper off the use of the wrist brace and ice the wrist four to six times per day.
On March 9, 2011, the employee was evaluated by Dr. Julie Adams at Fairview Maple Grove Medical Center. The employee reported numbness and tingling in her right fingers and right wrist discomfort. Dr. Adams opined that the employee’s symptoms were consistent with carpal tunnel syndrome and recommended electrodiagnostic testing for further evaluation and diagnosis. The employee returned to Dr. Dunne on March 31, 2011. At that time, Dr. Dunne still considered the employee unable to return to work due to her post-traumatic stress disorder. He also stated that the employee had traumatic carpal tunnel syndrome and ordered an EMG of her right arm. An April 5, 2011, EMG confirmed median neuropathy at the right wrist consistent with right carpal tunnel syndrome. Dr. Dunne recommended use of a wrist splint as well as use of ice packs four to six times per day, and also referred the employee for physical therapy for her wrist.
On May 12, 2011, the employee filed a claim petition for medical expenses related to treatment for her right wrist and for post-traumatic stress disorder, for temporary total disability benefits from and after January 19, 2011, and to reserve claims for permanent partial disability and rehabilitation benefits. The employer denied all the claims.
The employee’s last psychotherapy session was on June 9, 2011. The employee was evaluated by Dr. Keller on June 22, 2011. The employee reported feeling less depressed and less anxious. Dr. Keller stated that the employee was feeling quite well psychologically, and that the employee could return to work at that time regarding her post-traumatic stress disorder. On June 24, 2011, the employee returned to Dr. Dunne, reporting pain and discomfort in the right wrist as well as numbness and tingling in her fingers. Dr. Dunne indicated that the employee would have work restrictions for her right hand, and referred her to Dr. Thomas Walsh, an orthopedist, for a second opinion. The employee was evaluated by Dr. Walsh on July 28, 2011. At that time, the employee was no longer reporting numbness or tingling, but was still experiencing occasional pain and soreness. Dr. Walsh diagnosed a crush injury to the right wrist and early carpal tunnel symptoms, with recent resolution. Dr. Walsh indicated that the employee could not return to her regular driver job until she could manage luggage weighing up to 75 pounds. On August 5, 2011, Dr. Dunne released the employee to return to work without restrictions.
On July 13, 2011, the employee was evaluated by Dr. William Call, an orthopedic surgeon, at the employer’s request. Dr. Call opined that the employee had not sustained a work-related right wrist injury and that her medical treatment related to her right wrist was not causally related to the January 5, 2011, bus incident. On September 20, 2011, the employee underwent an evaluation by psychologist Marvin Logel, Ph.D., at the employer’s request. Dr. Logel opined that the employee’s post-traumatic stress disorder was causally related to the January 5, 2011, bus incident, but that this condition did not create an independent physical condition and that the employee’s alleged wrist injury did not cause or aggravate the employee’s emotional condition.
The employee returned to her job with the employer in January 2012. She was treated by Dr. Walsh for her right wrist condition again on June 12, 2012. Dr. Walsh noted that the employee’s wrist had improved while she was off work in 2011, but her symptoms had returned. Dr. Walsh indicated that the employee was a candidate for carpal tunnel surgery if her symptoms persisted or worsened.
A hearing was held on June 14, 2012. The compensation judge found that the employee sustained a right wrist injury and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the January 5, 2011, bus incident, but also found that the post-traumatic stress disorder condition was not compensable since the employee’s physical injury was not a substantial contributing cause of the employee’s mental injury, and the mental injury did not cause a physical condition that could be independently treated. The judge awarded the employee temporary total disability benefits from June 23 through August 5, 2011, and medical expenses related to treatment for the employee’s right wrist injury. The self-insured employer appeals.
The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals must determine whether the findings of fact and order are clearly erroneous and unsupported by substantial evidence in view of the entire record as submitted. Substantial evidence supports the findings if, in the context of the entire record, they are supported by evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate. Fact findings are clearly erroneous if the reviewing court, looking at the entire evidence, is left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed. Findings of fact should not be disturbed, even though the reviewing court might disagree with them, “unless they are clearly erroneous in the sense that they are manifestly contrary to the weight of the evidence or not reasonably supported by the evidence as a whole.”
To prove a claim under the Workers’ Compensation Act, an employee must show that the employer had timely notice or knowledge of the employee’s injury within the statutory period. The purpose of the notice requirement is to permit the employer to make such investigation as is necessary to determine its liability for a compensation claim and to allow the employer to provide necessary medical care. Minn. Stat. § 176.141 requires an employee to give notice within 14 days or within 180 days of an injury in certain mitigating circumstances. Where notice is provided to the employer more than 30 days but less than 180 days from the occurrence of the injury, compensation is still payable if the employee shows that the failure to give prior notice was due to the employee’s mistake, inadvertence, ignorance of fact or law, or inability, or to the fraud, misrepresentation, or deceit of the employer or agent, unless the employer shows prejudice. The scope of the circumstances under which the notice statute permits an employee to delay notice for up to 180 days is very broad, especially in the circumstances of mistake or inadvertence, and the statute allows an employee wide latitude in showing the reason why notice was not given earlier.
In this case, the employee specifically claimed a right wrist injury on the May 12, 2011, claim petition, more than 30 days but less than 180 days after the bus incident. The employee testified that she sought treatment at urgent care for her wrist on January 19, 2011, but that when she started talking about the bus incident, showing the video of the fire, and discussing possibility of smoke inhalation and her sore throat, “everything got off track.” She testified that her wrist was checked but that it was not bothering her right then since she had taken Aleve. The medical records from that visit do not indicate that the employee reported any problems with her wrist. The employee notified the employer of the occurrence of an injury on January 20, 2011, by providing medical information, which the employee believed contained references to her right wrist complaints. The first report of injury indicates that the employee was “experiencing post-traumatic stress symptoms as a result of having to evacuate a burning bus” but also states that the injury included “occupational disease or cumulative injury - - mental stress” and “multiple body parts.” The medical records indicate treatment for the employee’s wrist as of February 14, 2011. The compensation judge could reasonably conclude based on oral testimony and other evidence that the employee’s delay in specifically reporting a wrist injury was due to mistake or inadvertence where the employee believed that she had provided medical information to the employer referring to the wrist injury and where a first report of injury had been filed listing “multiple body parts” as injured. In addition, the employer has not shown prejudice from the employee’s delay. Given these facts and conclusions, the compensation judge did not err by finding that the employee had given adequate notice under Minn. Stat. § 176.141. Accordingly, we affirm.
The employer also argues that the employee’s testimony regarding the cause of her wrist injury was inconsistent with the histories reported in the medical records and therefore the compensation judge’s finding on that issue is not supported by substantial evidence, citing Fitzgerald v. DOS Trucking, Inc. In Fitzgerald, this court reversed a finding, based on an employee’s testimony, that the employee’s injury arose out of and in the course of his employment where that testimony was inconsistent with the employee’s medical records. The employee had testified that he injured his leg in a fall while loading his truck at work, but six different histories in the employee’s medical records indicated that the employee had reported he had injured his leg when he fell on a piece of rebar while working at his house. In addition, the mechanism of the injury described by the employee was not consistent with the nature of the injury. On appeal, this court found, under the unusual facts of that case, that the judge’s finding based on the employee’s testimony was manifestly contrary to the clear weight of the evidence, and reversed.
In this case, the employee’s medical histories all describe a wrist injury while the employee was handling luggage during the January 2011 bus incident. Unlike Fitzgerald, none of the descriptions in the employee’s histories, if adopted, would change the location or the mechanism of the employee’s injury. Omissions or discrepancies in the records as to how the injury occurred do not automatically render the judge’s finding manifestly contrary to the clear weight of the evidence. Again, the compensation judge did not err by relying on the employee’s testimony in finding that the employee had sustained a work-related right wrist injury during the January 2011 bus incident.
The employer also contends that the medical opinions supporting the employee’s diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome lack foundation to support any opinion on causation since they were not aware of the inconsistent histories given to other doctors, and further claims that the doctors’ findings on examination were normal and do not support the doctors’ diagnoses. We disagree. To be of evidentiary value, an expert medical opinion must be based on adequate foundation. The competence of a witness to render expert medical testimony depends upon both the degree of the witness’s scientific knowledge and the extent of the witness’s practical experience with the matter at issue. The employee’s doctors conducted physical examinations, took medical histories, and treated her wrist. As a general rule, this level of knowledge establishes a doctor’s competence to render an expert opinion. The medical opinions in this case had adequate foundation. The employer’s arguments go to the persuasiveness of the opinions and not their foundation. The compensation judge considered the employee’s medical records and the expert medical opinions in making her decision. As stated, the choice between competing medical opinions is within the province of the compensation judge and a decision based on that choice will not be reversed by this court. The compensation judge did not err by relying on the medical opinions supporting the employee’s carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosis and indicating that the employee’s wrist injury was related to the January 2011 bus incident.
In essence, substantial evidence, including the employee’s testimony and expert medical opinions, supports the compensation judge’s finding that the employee sustained a right wrist injury as a result of the January 2011 bus incident, and we affirm.
Temporary total disability
The employer also contends that substantial evidence does not support the compensation judge’s finding that the employee was temporarily totally disabled from working due to her wrist injury from June 23 through August 5, 2011. The compensation judge found that the employee was being treated for her wrist injury and had restrictions for her wrist during that time. The employee’s medical records from Dr. Dunne support this finding. The employee was released for work without restrictions on August 5, 2011. Substantial evidence supports the compensation judge’s finding that the employee was disabled from working due to her wrist injury from June 23 through August 5, 2011, and we affirm.
 Minn. Stat. § 176.421, subd. 1.
 Hengemuhle v. Long Prairie Jaycees, 358 N.W.2d 54, 59, 37 W.C.D. 235, 239 (Minn. 1984).
3 Northern States Power Co. v. Lyon Food Prods., Inc., 304 Minn. 196, 201, 229 N.W.2d 521, 524 (1975).
 Issacson v. Minnetonka, Inc., 411 N.W.2d 865, 866, 40 W.C.D. 270, 272 (Minn. 1987).
 See Rinne v. W.C. Griffis Co., 234 Minn. 146, 47 N.W.2d 872, 16 W.C.D. 348 (1951); see also Kling v. St. Barnabas Hosp., 291 Minn. 257, 261, 190 N.W.2d 674, 677, 26 W.C.D. 53, 56 (1971) (citing Pojanowski v. Hart, 288 Minn. 77, 178 N.W.2d 913, 25 W.C.D. 206 (1970)).
 Minn. Stat. § 176.141 provides in part:
Unless the employer has actual knowledge of the occurrence of the injury or unless the injured worker, or a dependent or someone in behalf of either, gives written notice thereof to the employer within 14 days after the occurrence of the injury, then no compensation shall be due until the notice is given or knowledge obtained. If the notice is given or the knowledge obtained within 30 days from the occurrence of the injury, no want, failure, or inaccuracy of a notice shall be a bar to obtaining compensation unless the employer shows prejudice by such want, defect, or inaccuracy, and then only to the extent of the prejudice. If the notice is given or the knowledge obtained within 180 days, and if the employee or other beneficiary shows that failure to give prior notice was due to the employee’s or beneficiary’s mistake, inadvertence, ignorance of fact or law, or inability, or to the fraud, misrepresentation, or deceit of the employer or agent, then compensation may be allowed, unless the employer shows prejudice by failure to receive the notice, in which case the amount of compensation shall be reduced by a sum which fairly represents the prejudice shown.
 Wood v. Airco Indus. Gases, 45 W.C.D. 342, 345 (W.C.C.A. 1991), summarily aff’d (Minn. Oct. 30, 1991).
 T. 23.
 Fitzgerald v. DOS Trucking, Inc., No. WC07-222 (W.C.C.A. May 29, 2008).
 See Welton v. Fireside Foster Inn, 426 N.W.2d 883, 41 W.C.D. 109 (Minn. 1988).
 Reinhardt v. Colton, 337 N.W.2d 88, 93 (Minn. 1983).
 See Grunst v. Immanuel-St. Joseph Hosp., 424 N.W.2d 66, 40 W.C.D. 1130 (Minn. 1988).
 McDonel v. Andersen Windows, slip op. (W.C.C.A. Mar. 21, 2003).
 Nord v. City of Cook, 360 N.W.2d. 337, 37 W.C.D. 364 (Minn. 1985).
 See Hengemuhle, 358 N.W.2d at 59, 37 W.C.D. at 239.