Benefits blocked for inspector after scuffle with home intruder
Case name: Smith v. Wake County Government, No. COA11-1154 (N.C. Ct. App. 03/06/12, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the North Carolina Court of Appeals held that an inspector was not entitled to benefits for his injuries.
What it means: In North Carolina, a worker's inconsistent statements about his injury and the alleged work incident can undermine compensability.
Summary: A building inspector for a county arrived to inspect a home under renovation and saw that the back door was open. He entered the home and discovered an intruder on the second floor. As the intruder attempted to escape, the inspector grabbed his sweatshirt with his left hand. The intruder repeatedly jerked against the inspector's grip until he could flee. Immediately after the incident, he did not mention any injury or pain to his supervisor or the police. The inspector said he had increasing pain in his left arm, left shoulder, and neck over the next few weeks. He visited his primary care doctor, a neurosurgeon, and an orthopedic surgeon. He did not mention the incident to doctors until after he had rotator cuff surgery four months after the incident. He sought benefits. The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that he did not sustain a compensable injury by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment.
The court pointed out that the surgeon said that the inspector's story seemed "inconsistent." The surgeon estimated that the inspector's rotator cuff tear occurred two months after the work incident. The surgeon's notes suggested that the inspector's pain began in his right arm, which was not consistent with the work incident that involved his left arm. Also, the surgeon's notes indicated that the inspector's arm pain began after a "brawl" one month before the work incident.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
May 7, 2012
Copyright 2012© LRP Publications