Category Archives: Awards

Best Lawyers in America: Charlie & Tom Domer

Once again, Tom Domer and Charlie Domer have been recognized in Best Lawyers in America.   Both Charlie and Tom are listed in The Best Lawyers for “Worker’s Compensation Law-Claimants.”

Charlie and Tom, along with the entire team at Domer Law, strive daily to fight for the rights of injured workers and to maximize their benefits under Wisconsin law.  

Tom Domer Quoted On Workplace Deaths In Workers' Compensation System

Attorney Tom Domer

Recently our own Tom Domer was quoted in the Oshkosh Northwestern in an article entitled “Special Report: Wisconsin Companies Insulated From Stiff Penalties In Worker Deaths.” The article, based on a review by the paper of 240 workplace fatalities in Wisconsin over an 11-year period, exposed that the fines imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on companies have been small and are often negotiated down from an already low starting point. Of the 240 workplace fatalities, fines were assessed in just 184 cases, and the median fine was a mere $4,200.

While workplace deaths have dropped dramatically since OSHA implementation in the 1970s, tragedies still occur.  OSHA’s limited penalty mechanisms in these cases “cheapens” the value of life. Wisconsin’s workers’ compensation system also protects employer’s against bad behavior.  A death benefit in Wisconsin is equal to four times the deceased’s annual wages, but the deceased’s family members cannot bring a personal injury claim agains the employer (meaning no recovery for pain and suffering or loss of consortium).  Under the worker’s compensation law, the only “fine” against the employer is a potential safety violation (with a minimal $15,000 cap). In Tom’s words “No matter how evil, nefarious or even negligent an employer is, there is no lawsuit potential.” Tom further remarked that “The law unfortunately protects employers even against their own negligence.”

We recommend that you read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

Disability for Multiple Joint Replacement: A Big Win for Injured Workers

Charlie Domer recently won a significant case that advances the rights and benefits of injured workers.  According to our Labor and Industry Review Commission, each, additional invasive joint replacement (which carries a minimum percentage of disability) can be “stacked” together up to a full 100% disability to that joint.  (The case is : Knutson (dec’d) v. Flat Creek Eatery & Saloon, WC Claim No. 2001-055356 (LIRC May 24, 2012)).

multiple joint replacementSpecifically, Robert Knutson (who unfortunately passed away while the case was on appeal) suffered an undisputed injury to his left hip in 2001.  He underwent no less than ten surgical procedures, at least three of which constituted totalhip replacements. Under Administrative Code section 80.32(3), a “total hip prosthesis” carries a minimum 40% PPD.  Based on previous Wisconsin Court and LIRC decisions, generally any subsequent invasive surgery resulting from the same work injury carries an additional, additive PPD rating under Section 80.32 (DaimlerChrysler).

Joint replacements can be problematic, but the Court of Appeals recently confirmed a LIRC decision that awarded a “stacked” 55% for a post-injury medial meniscus repair (with its 5% min) and later total knee replacement (carrying 50% min).  MG&E v. LIRC, 2011 WI App 110, 802 N.W.2d 502.

The Knutson case, however, was one of first impression because it dealt with multiple post-injury joint replacements.  Knutson argued that LIRC should award the Code minimums cumulatively for each total hip replacement procedure, resulting in 100% PPD.  The defense contended that a “natural” hip can only be replaced one time, and therefore, any subsequent or revision surgeries on the artificial appliance do not trigger the 80.32 Code minimums. The ALJ agreed with the respondent.  The Commission reversed and awarded 100% PPD to the hip—thereby allowing “stacking” of Code minimums for multiple post-injury joint replacement surgeries.  LIRC indicated that 80.32 minimums applied to all joint replacements involving the installation of an artificial device to replace a missing body part, regardless of whether the missing body part was “natural” or had been removed in an earlier procedure.

This case represents a huge win for injured workers, especially as more and more injuries result in multiple hip replacements or knee replacements.

More surgeries = More benefits (Part 2)

In Part 1, we discussed how to determine the PPD (Permanent Partial Disability) value for certain body parts and surgical procedures. In this article, we continue the discussion on applicable PPD values for cumulative or multiple surgeries.

For multiple surgeries on the same work-related injury, permanent disabilities are "stacked"-- after all, having two surgeries rather than one means that you have to recuperate twice.

What about multiple surgeries?

“Redo” or cumulative surgeries can be problematic, but recent court decisions clarified the issue.

For background information, the Wisconsin Supreme Court (DaimlerChrysler v. LIRC, 2007 WI 15, 299 Wis. 2d 1, 727 N.W.2d 311 (2007))held that any additional invasive surgery resulting from the same work injury carries an additional, additive PPD rating under section 80.32. In effect, the minimum percentages of disability are “stacked” on each other, based on each performed procedure listed in the Code section.

For example, if an injured worker has an initial ACL repair to his knee (minimum 10% under the Code section), followed by a second ACL repair later (minimum 10%), the PPD is stacked for a cumulative 20% minimum PPD—even if the treating physician assigned a lower percentage.

The general policy behind this “stacking” of the disability percentages listed for surgical procedures is that “repeat or multiple surgeries have a cumulative, negative effect on the function of the body part upon which they are performed” (DaimlerChrysler, 2007 WI 15, ¶ 32, n.14).

Some confusion exists when a joint replacement occurs after prior surgical procedures, all stemming from the same work injury. In the introduction to Code section 80.32, an appropriate reduction can be made for any preexisting disability.  Accordingly, applicant and defense attorneys have argued about whether the PPD attributable to a joint replacement can be reduced from prior surgical procedures to the same body part when the surgeries are all after and relate to one work injury.


 For example, if a worker has an initial knee ACL repair (10% minimum), followed by a total knee replacement (50% minimum), is the PPD a cumulative 60%, just 50% for the total knee, or 40% based on a reduction?


This issue was resolved in favor of “stacking” the PPD percentages for a cumulative number (60% in the above example).  The Wisconsin Court of Appeals recently held that the Commission has consistently interpreted the DaimlerChrysler rule to allow for cumulative minimum PPD ratings where successive surgeries are necessitated by the same work injury; there was no reason to apply the rule differently when one of the surgeries was a total joint replacement.  (MG&E v. LIRC, 2011 WI App 110, Ct. App. June 16, 2011).

The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently declined review of the case, which keeps the Court of Appeals ruling in place.  Therefore, under the current law, each additional surgery listed in Code Section 80.32 that a worker has after an injury carries a separate and additive PPD percentage under the law—a significant benefit to Wisconsin’s injured workers.




Photo Credit: Apple’s Eyes Studio /

More surgeries = More benefits (Part 1)

Wisconsin workers who undergo post-injury surgery are entitled to a percentage of permanent disability benefits.

Surgeries are commonplace after a work injury.  When an injured worker in Wisconsin has a post-injury surgery, that worker is ordinarily entitled to a minimum percentage of permanent disability.

Permanent partial disability (PPD) generally represents a physician’s assessment of a worker’s functional loss. PPD is payable at a weekly rate equal to two-thirds of the employee’s average gross weekly earnings at the time of the injury, subject to a maximum rate (the rate in 2011 and 2012 is $302/week).

Administrative rules relevant to the Worker’s Compensation Act (Section DWD 80.32) provide mandatory minimum ratings of PPD for injuries to various body parts and surgical procedures. For example:

  • A laminectomy (removal of disc material) at one level of the lumbar spine (e.g., L4-5) carries a minimum 5% disability;
  • A spinal fusion at the same level (e.g. L4-5), results in a minimum 10% disability;
  • Total hip replacements carry a minimum 40% PPD (while a partial hip replacement results in 35% PPD);
  • A total knee replacement has a minimum PPD of 50% (partial knee replacement is 45%);
  • An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) repair is 10% PPD minimum; and
  • A knee meniscectomy results in 5% PPD minimum.

If a worker has one of the listed procedures, they receive the minimum PPD percentage.  To calculate the value, we look to the applicable percentage, based on the number of weeks the body part is “worth” under the statutes.  For example, a knee is worth 425 weeks under the statutes, so the 20% PPD to the knee is 85 weeks (20% of 425) at the $302/week rate for a 2011 injury, which amounts to $25,670.

Check with us next week for the continuation of this article. Part 2 will discuss multiple surgery disability benefits.

Photo Credit: jannoon028/

Thomas Domer Named Lawyer of the Year

Thomas Domer

Thomas M. Domer was awarded with the honor of being named “Milwaukee Best Lawyers Workers’ Compensation Lawyer of the Year” for 2011.

Best Lawyers recognizes the most accomplished and respected lawyers in designated legal specialties within large legal communities. Only one lawyer in each specialty area in each community can be named “Lawyer of the Year.” Continue reading