An employee was injured at work and received medical treatment and temporary total disability (TTD) benefits. Did a video disqualify her from future benefits?
Lisa Forren was a registered nurse for Greenbriar Valley Med Center in West Virginia.
Forren injured her right shoulder while positioning a patient.
Months after the injury, her doctor evaluated her. She said injections she’d received helped her symptoms for two to three weeks. Forren had also undergone six weeks of physical therapy.
Since this conservative treatment failed, surgery was recommended. Forren was restricted to sedentary work with no lifting with the right arm.
Another doctor performed an independent medical evaluation. The doctor noted Forren had a history of chronic right shoulder pain unrelated to the work injury.
The IME doctor found Forren had reached maximum medical improvement and required no further treatment. The doctor also noted an alleged discrepancy between the activities Forren reported she was capable of and activities she was seen doing in a Facebook video.
The doctor said the video “created substantial doubt regarding the legitimacy of Ms. Forren’s current complaints.”
In the video, Forren can be seen raising her right arm above her head three times, point with her right arm and high-fiving at shoulder height with her right arm.
A claims administrator closed Forren’s case for TTD benefits and ended medical benefits.
The Workers’ Compensation Office of Judges reviewed the case. The Office of Judges noted the time Forren’s arm was at shoulder level or higher in the video was between 5 and 10 seconds and concluded the video didn’t show she exceeded her medical restrictions or had fully recovered from her injury.
Her doctor had restricted her to occasional lifting of not more than 10 pounds. The video showed Forren lifting a spoon – something that clearly didn’t weigh 10 pounds.
Therefore, the Office of Judges ordered Forren’s claim to be reopened and that TTD benefits be granted “as substantiated by proper medical evidence.” The court also ordered a determination on whether Forren qualifies for surgery.
Her employer appealed, and the West Virginia Supreme Court recently upheld the Office of Judges’ ruling.
(Greenbrier Valley Med Center v. Lisa Forren, West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, No. 19-1066, 1/20/21)