PERMANENT PARTIAL DISABILITY

PERMANENT PARTIAL DISABILITY BENEFITS FOR VISION LOSS

Venezia Transport Service Inc. v. Liming, Va. App. Record No. 2401-09-2 (May 11, 2010).

Claimant, a tractor trailer driver, sustained a compensable injury, a traumatic cataract, to his left eye on July 21, 2005. Prior to this date, Claimant never had problems with his vision in either eye. On October 18, 2005, Claimant began treating with an eye doctor, Dr. Jani, for complaints of cloudy vision, difficulty reading, driving and in focusing and loss of balance. On March 23, 2006, Dr. Jani performed surgery on Claimant’s left eye, removing the natural lens and replacing it with an artificial lens. After the natural lens was removed but prior to the implantation of the artificial lens, Dr. Jani opined that Claimant’s vision in his left eye was worse than 20/200 and that that vision loss was permanent. Approximately 3 months after the surgery, Claimant complained of discomfort in his eye. In October 2008, Employer obtained a records review from an ophthalmologist, Dr. Cooper, who explained that the standard of “best corrected visual acuity” is based on a person’s corrected vision and he found using the preoperative, uncorrected visual acuity to be irrational.

The Deputy Commissioner considered both opinions and awarded the Claimant benefits for total vision loss in his left eye based upon the opinion of the treating eye doctor, Dr. Jani, and the assessment of Claimant’s vision in his left eye being worse than 20/200. The Commission affirmed this decision. The Employer argued however, that the commission erred in relying on Creative Dimensions Group, Inc. v. Hill, 16 Va. App. 439, 430 S.E.2d 718 (1993), to find that Liming suffered a total loss of vision because his loss should not have been assessed after removal of his natural lens but before implantation of the artificial lens. In Creative Dimensions Group, the Court of Appeals held that an intraocular lens transplant does not eliminate a claimant’s vision loss and, “as a mere corrective device, the implant should not be considered in determining the extent of claimant’s loss.” In the present case, the Court of Appeals held that the Claimant’s total vision loss was properly based upon the vision assessment during the surgery, after the removal of the natural lens but prior to the implantation of the artificial lens.

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