Change in work, new tear supports finding that worker suffered new injury
Case name: Evergreen Packaging, Inc., et al. v. Prather, No. A12A1067 (Ga. Ct. App. 11/13/12).
Ruling: The Georgia Court of Appeals awarded benefits to a worker, holding that he suffered a new injury because his preexisting back condition was independently aggravated by work that was not normal and he did not suffer a change in condition.
What it means: In Georgia, the distinguishing feature that will characterize a disability as a change of condition or a new accident is the intervention of new circumstances.
Summary: A warehouse worker for a manufacturer of milk and juice cartons injured his back while operating a forklift. He was not able to work for a period of time, and the manufacturer paid him temporary total disability benefits. After he returned to work, he was granted a job change to a plate maker position. The job required bending and lifting. The worker said that after he returned to work, his back pain got progressively worse. The manufacturer bought a new plate table that required him to bend further to perform his duties. He said the bending made his back worse. He started to experience numbness radiating to his foot. He underwent an MRI, which showed an increase in the extent of disk protrusion and stenosis. The MRI also showed a new annular tear.
The worker sought workers' compensation benefits for a new back injury. The Georgia Court of Appeals held that he was entitled to benefits.
The court rejected the manufacturer's argument that the worker suffered a change in condition. The evidence showed that the worker suffered a back injury that progressed over time and there was no specifically identifiable accident that injured him after his initial compensable injury.
However, the evidence showed that he suffered an additional injury. The MRI showed a new tear. Also, he performed different but still physically demanding work after he returned to work and his condition worsened when the scope of his work changed.
The court concluded that there was evidence to support a finding that he suffered a new injury because his preexisting condition was independently aggravated by work that was not normal and that he had not suffered a change in condition.
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February 11, 2013
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