SIDNEY – An employee of Honda’s Anna Engine Plant is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, a jury decided Wednesday morning in Shelby County Common Pleas Court.
Tammy K. Bunn, of Xenia, won a civil case against Honda of America Manufacturing, Inc., which previously denied her claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Bunn, who still is employed at the Anna Engine Plant, didn’t seek any compensation beyond access to workers’ compensation benefits.
The production associate was diagnosed with bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, which is carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists, in July 2019. She first reported symptoms in May 2019, less than two weeks after being transferred to a new position at the plant.
Bunn and her attorney, Marcus A. Heath from Hochman & Plunkett Co., argued the condition was directly caused by her work at Honda. The company, which was represented by Theresa M. Muhic from Dinsmore & Shohl, agreed that Bunn’s work provoked carpal tunnel symptoms but argued the emergence of symptoms doesn’t mean her job caused the condition.
Bunn started working at Honda through a temp service in January 2014 and became a full-time employee of the manufacturer in September 2016. In May 2019 she was transferred to a day-shift job that she said was faster paced and required more use of gripping and vibrating tools.
During training for her new position, Bunn said, she developed pain in both hands and wrists including numbness and tingling.
Dr. Eugene Kim, a board certified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hand surgery, treated Bunn and testified on her behalf that the carpal tunnel syndrome was caused by her work at Honda.
“My opinion is that the conditions required of my patient to perform manual activity in the new job directly contributed to the onset of symptoms of carpal tunnel in both upper extremities,” the Dayton-based doctor said in prerecorded testimony.
Dr. Michael Griesser, a board certified orthopedic surgeon who examined Bunn once, testified on behalf of Honda that the onset of symptoms didn’t necessarily mean the job caused Bunn’s condition. He said other contributing factors – including that she’s a woman, she is in her 50s and she has a thyroid condition – put her at greater risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
“There are many, many risk factors identified for the development of carpal tunnel syndrome, the strongest of which, in her case, included female sex, advancing age and a thyroid condition,” the doctor from Middletown said in prerecorded testimony. “All of which, based on these modern medical guidelines and literature, would be much more strong causative risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome than her workplace exposure.”
Heath said his client never had any issues with carpal tunnel syndrome prior to moving to the new position at the Anna Engine Plant. During a shutdown for the Fourth of July holiday and when she was temporarily moved to a secretarial position, her symptoms subsided, which Heath said proved the job caused her condition.
Attorneys presented evidence on Tuesday and then made their closing arguments to the eight-person jury Wednesday morning. After approximately one hour of deliberation, seven of the jury members agreed that Bunn was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. In a civil case, at least six of the eight jurors must agree on a verdict to render a decision.
The matter now will go to the Industrial Commission of Ohio to determine what workers’ compensation benefits Bunn is entitled to receive.
Bunn said she intends to continue working at Honda and wants workers’ compensation so she can seek treatment and continue working. Muhic said Bunn is a good employee and the trial wouldn’t affect her status with the company.
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