An employee reported a back injury from lifting a box. When he was awarded workers’ comp benefits, the company said there was no proof the injury occurred on the job.
Corey Cruz worked as a sorter for DMSI Staffing. His duties included lifting boxes that weighed up to 70 pounds.
One day at work he picked up a box and felt a sharp pain in his back. He reported the incident to his supervisor.
Three days later he went to a hospital ER. An MRI of his spine showed he had a herniated disc. After two surgeries, a doctor said Cruz still hadn’t reached maximum medical improvement.
Cruz’s workers’ comp claim was denied. After a hearing, a deputy workers’ comp commissioner concluded he suffered a back injury at work and awarded him temporary total disability and medical expense benefits. DMSI appealed to the full commission which upheld the commissioner’s decision. Next, the case went to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
The company argued that no one saw the injury happen and that Cruz had told a co-worker his back pain wasn’t work-related.
Cruz said he told his co-worker he had injured his back by lifting a box.
The court found Cruz’s testimony to be credible.
Next the company questioned the doctor’s opinion that the back injury was work-related.
Before the workers’ comp commission, Cruz’s doctor was asked whether the herniated disc existed before the day Cruz said he had the workplace injury.
“Probably not, given the size of the disc herniation,” the doctor testified. “This was a pretty massive disc herniation, so, if he was showing up to work, he would not have been able to go to work with that sized herniation. Absolutely no way.”
The appeals court said that testimony supported the commission’s findings that Cruz’s disc herniation was connected to his workplace injury. Cruz was able to receive comp.
Have you ever had a case in which you suspected an employee’s back injury didn’t happen at work? Let us know about it in the comments below.
(Cruz v. DMSI Staffing, Court of Appeals of NC, No. COA12-438, 12/4/12)