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WORKERS' COMPENSATION LAW
Deny, Deny, Deny – Claimant’s Denial of History Results in Denial of Petition
The Claimant was involved in a work-related lifting injury to her low back in June 2018. In October 2018, Claimant went to the emergency room with shoulder and neck pain, with no, follow-up treatment for the shoulder until she saw an orthopaedic surgeon in April 2019. According to the surgeon, Claimant identified an incident that occurred 6-8 weeks prior in which she was wearing a large, bulky back brace and attempted to reposition herself; after placing her full weight on her left arm, she experienced left shoulder pain, which was ultimately diagnosed as a rotator cuff tear. A similar history was given to the physical therapist. The surgeon testified that he relied upon this history to relate the left shoulder injury to the work accident, as he placed the blame on the work-related low back brace causing the claimant to move unnaturally.
At the Hearing on Claimant’s Petition, however, Claimant gave an entirely different story. Claimant testified she was sitting on the couch in October 2018 and moved her left arm outward, at which point she felt a pop in her shoulder. Claimant specifically denied the history given by the surgeon and the physical therapist, with respect to both the mechanism of injury and the timing – she insisted it was a single event in October. Claimant also denied moving in any particularly awkward or abnormal ways while in the brace, again departing from the history reported by her surgeon.
After hearing the significant inconsistencies and outright denials of the recorded histories, the Board found Claimant was not credible or consistent, finding her “timeline of events incoherent” and noting her denials of the history given to her doctors difficult to reconcile. The Board was “left wondering if there was an inciting event” and, if so, whether it was one event or multiple. Instead, the gaps and uncertain symptoms and causes supported the opinions of the Employer’s expert, Dr. Matz, who testified that Claimant’s condition presented as the result of a rotator cuff that has worn down over 68 years of daily life and work. Because the Board could not reconcile the denials with the treating surgeon’s efforts to explain the mechanism of injury, the Board was left with no choice but to deny Claimant’s Petition entirely on the basis of causation alone.
Should you have any questions regarding this Decision, please contactNick Bittner or any other Attorney in our Workers’ Compensation Department.
Geraldine Daggett v. ShopRite, IAB No. 1500021, March 19, 2021.