Case name: Smith v. Guy C. Lee Building Materials, No. COA10-1286 (N.C. Ct. App. 05/03/11, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the North Carolina Court of Appeals held that a truck driver was not entitled to compensation for his two work-related incidents.
What it means: In North Carolina, without a doctor's opinion that a worker's injury was causally related to a work incident, it will be difficult for a worker to show he is entitled to compensation.
A truck driver slipped while carrying gypsum wallboard through a doorway at a construction site. He was diagnosed with a right calf strain and lumbrosacral strain. A doctor noted that he was obese, had "remarkably poor activity tolerance," and a medical history of heart problems and diabetes. He underwent an MRI, which revealed spondylosis. The doctor indicated that the driver continued to report pain and exhibited "symptom exaggeration." The doctor said the MRI's findings were not traumatic but due to degenerative changes over time. The day the driver returned to work, he allegedly fell in the employer's parking lot. A back specialist ordered a CT scan that showed spondylolisthesis. The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that the driver was not entitled to benefits for either of the incidents.
The court explained that the Industrial Commission gave the driver's testimony little weight since he was deemed not credible. Also, no doctor opined that the driver's back pain and resulting leg pain were the result of either of the work incidents.
Also, the court disagreed with the driver's contention that his employment aggravated his degenerative disease. The driver did not present evidence that his work placed him at an increased risk.
The driver also asserted that he was entitled to disability benefits because he was unable to work after injuring his back. The court disagreed, finding that any continuing pain and medical treatment were not causally related to the alleged work injures.
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July 14, 2011
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