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Claimant was involved in a compensable work accident with multiple alleged injuries. At a prior Hearing in 2017, the claimant alleged ongoing injury to the head and neck, while seeking payment of surgery and other benefits related to same. The Board agreed with the Employer’s experts and found that any injuries to the head and neck had long since resolved. While the surgeries at issue were denied on technical grounds, they would still not be compensable due to the finding of resolution.
Claimant then filed Petitions seeking permanent impairment to the head and neck, as well as disfigurement to the neck related to one of the surgeries that had previously been denied. The Employer filed a Motion to Dismiss, citing to Christiana Care Health Services v. Davis, 127 A.3d 391 (Del. 2015), which affirmed a dismissal on similar grounds, as entitlement to benefits ends once a work-related injury has resolved. At the Legal Hearing, claimant argued that the recent Delaware Supreme Court case of Washington v. Delaware Transit Corp., 226 A.3d 202 (Del. 2020), stood for the proposition that the Board cannot dismiss permanency/disfigurement when those issues were not raised at the prior Hearing.
The Board rejected the claimant’s arguments and found in favor of the Employer. The Board distinguished Washington as involving different circumstances; specifically, Washington involved a finding in a Termination Petition that the claimant could return to work as the basis for dismissing a subsequent permanent impairment claim. By way of contrast, the prior Petition in this matter involved questions of whether there were ongoing, compensable injuries to the head and neck. As the Board found there were not, the claimant lost all entitlement to subsequent benefits for those body parts. According to the Board, “Once the Board finds that a compensable injury resulting from a work accident either does not exist or has subsequently resolved, there simply can be no further entitlement to benefits with respect to that claimed injury.” Therefore, claimant’s Petitions were dismissed.
Should you have any questions regarding this Decision, please contact Nick Bittner, or any other Attorney in our Workers’ Compensation Department.
Rebecca Clark v. State of Delaware, IAB No. 1393189, July 30, 2020.