Nurse's voluntary retirement topples claim for total disability benefits
Jackson v. Genesis Health Ventures, No. 09A-09-001 RBY (Del. Super. Ct. 01/06/11).
The Delaware Superior Court held that a nurse was not entitled to total disability benefits following a total knee replacement surgery.
What it means: To establish a claim for total disability benefits in Delaware, a worker must show she was actually incapacitated from earning wages. Voluntary retirement may disqualify a worker from receiving disability benefits.
Summary: A nurse's supervisor asked her to unpack a newly delivered crate containing a wire frame that would be used to store medical waste. The nurse objected, saying that the frame was too heavy for her to move safely. The supervisor disagreed and asked her again to unpack the crate. The nurse relented and tore the meniscus in her right knee. The employer paid benefits, including medical expenses for surgery. The nurse's pain was not eliminated by surgery, so she visited numerous doctors in search of additional treatment. Five years later, the nurse retired due to the pain from a nonwork-related back injury. The nurse's knee pain continued to increase and she fell in her garage. This accident necessitated a total knee replacement surgery. One month after the surgery, she was admitted to the hospital for treatment of multiple pulmonary embolisms. She sought total disability benefits. The Delaware Superior Court held that the nurse was not entitled to total disability benefits.
The parties disputed whether the nurse's inability to work constituted a total disability in light of her prior retirement. The court found that the nurse voluntarily retired and her retirement was not due to her work-related injury. The nurse told her treating doctor that she was retired and did not discuss the possibility of returning to work with restrictions. She removed herself from the workforce and never discussed or attempted to look for work during her treatment.
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February 10, 2011
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