Nobody questions that this employee was injured on the job. Although he reported injuries immediately afterward, he didn’t mention anything specifically about neck pain until two months later. Did he get comp coverage for the neck pain, too?
Marion Kordek worked as a machine operator for Innovative Manufacturing in New Jersey. On Nov. 2, 2011, Kordek injured his right shoulder and chest while sharpening a large piece of rebar on a lathe. The lathe malfunctioned, causing the rebar to strike him multiple times, mostly around the chest and shoulder areas.
Kordek was awarded 42.5% permanent partial disability for shoulder and chest injuries.
On Jan. 12, 2012, Kordek had a cervical (neck) MRI which revealed age-related disc degeneration. His doctor said after being hit by the rebar, extruded disc fragments created just minor neck pain, which grew more severe with time as the fragments began to settle and push against the nerve root. This was why Kordek didn’t initially complain about neck pain, according to his doctor.
A doctor for the company disagreed. He said Kordek’s complaints were out of proportion to his objective findings from a physical examination and could be symptom magnification.
A compensation judge heard the case and sided with the company that Kordek’s neck pain wasn’t due to being hit by the rebar. The judge noted:
- Kordek made no immediate complaints about neck pain after the incident. His first mention of neck pain was two months later.
- Doctors’ reports from Dec. 5 and 29 said Kordek denied having neck pain and had full range of motion.
- ER records from the date of the rebar incident specifically note Kordek had no tenderness or stiffness in the neck.
The compensation judge ruled Kordek failed to show that his neck pain was related to the injuries he suffered at work on Nov. 2, 2011. The judge didn’t find Kordek’s testimony that he felt neck pain immediately following the accident to be credible given the absence of complaints in the records immediately after the incident.
Kordek appealed to a state court, arguing that he presented sufficient medical evidence to show his neck condition was work-related.
The appeals court noted the compensation judge is the finder of fact in these cases. Since the appeals court found no error in the judge’s ruling, it couldn’t overturn the judgment.
The appeals court said the compensation judge’s ruling was supported by the evidence, so Kordek shouldn’t receive additional comp coverage for a neck injury.
(Marion Kordek v. Innovative Manufacturing, Superior Court of New Jersey, No. A-0006-16T3, 3/23/18)