The attorneys at Wilson and Ratledge stay up to date with the latest North Carolina Workers’ Compensation cases in order to provide you the best possible outcome. Below you will find the some of the most recent North Carolina Court of Appeals and North Carolina Supreme Court decisions.
April 27, 2015
Fields v. H&E Equipment Services, LLC. (Futility of seeking employment)
The plaintiff was 65 years old with 10th grade education. He was a mechanic and his work history was physical labor. A physician testified that the plaintiff’s pre-existing degenerative disc disease was aggravated by his work at the defendant-employer. At hearing, the plaintiff did not present any evidence of an attempt to find work, or evidence that he was so incapacitated that he is incapable of work in any capacity. However, the Industrial Commission found disability through the futility prong of Russell v. Lowes. There was no testimony from a vocational expert that it was futile for the plaintiff to look for work. There were no statistics presented that his pre-existing condition made him incapable of returning to the labor market. The plaintiff’s medical provider only said that Plaintiff should not continue work in his current role, and did not provide testimony that it was impossible for the plaintiff to return to work. The North Carolina Court of Appeals found that, since the plaintiff did not present any expert testimony that his prior job with defendant was the only job obtainable, or any evidence showing that someone of the same age, education, experience, and physical capabilities as the plaintiff was currently not working anywhere, the plaintiff did not meet his burden of proving disability under the futility prong of Russell. The North Carolina Court of Appeals reversed the Industrial Commission’s ruling.
May 4, 2015
Birckhead v. North Carolina Dept. of Public Safety (Short-term disability credit)
A defendant adjuster provided testimony at a hearing that it was her belief that the defendant-employer’s short-term disability plan was funded 100% by defendant-employer. The North Carolina Court of Appeals found that the adjuster’s testimony was sufficient evidence to support the Industrial Commission’s finding that the employer fully funded the short-term disability policy. The North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the Industrial Commission’s ruling that defendants were entitled to a credit for the short-term disability payments.
Haileab v. John Q. Hammons Hotels (Causal connection within medical records)
The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that since the defendants stipulated to medical records for the hearing that provided a causal link between the plaintiff’s compensable foot injury and her subsequent left knee injury, even though those records came from a physician that had not been deposed or qualified as an expert, the medical records were sufficient to support the Industrial Commission’s finding of a causal connection between the compensable injury and subsequent left knee injury.
Chenette v. Metokote Corp. (Average weekly wage)
The plaintiff suffered a compensable injury to his back in 2007, and then again in 2010. The plaintiff began experiencing back pain again, and the Industrial Commission found that the plaintiff’s current back pain was related to his 2010 injury, and not the 2007 injury. The evidence showed that the plaintiff earned less in the year preceding his 2010 injury, than he did in the year preceding his 2007 injury. Even though the defendants filed Form 60s for both injuries, the Form 60s did not create a presumption of ongoing disability and the plaintiff had to prove that his current condition was related to his 2007 injury. However, the Commission found that since his current complaints were related to his 2010 injury, the plaintiff’s wages for the 52 weeks preceding his 2010 injury were used to calculate his TTD award.
Collins v. Seaton Corp. (Credible testimony)
The Industrial Commission rejected a physician’s testimony, where that physician testified using information provided by the plaintiff regarding the details of his injury, and where the Industrial Commission found the plaintiff’s story of the events was not credible. The North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld the Commission’s decision to reject the physician’s testimony.