Imagine this: An employee is fired and told to pack up his belongings and leave. In the course of doing that, he’s injured. Can he collect workers’ comp?
Shannon Godwin worked for the Garland County Landfill in Arkansas, driving a semi truck.
On March 17, 2014, he was fired and told to collect his personal items from the truck.
Godwin says he was “getting stuff out of the truck and slipped off the top step and fell.”
On April 29, 2014, about five weeks after the day he was fired, he went to the doctor for knee pain and eventually had three arthroscopic surgeries on his knee.
Garland denied workers’ comp coverage for Godwin’s knee. A hearing was held before an administrative law judge (ALJ).
Godwin admitted he originally said the knee injury happened on Feb. 17, not March 17.
He also confirmed that he had suffered a previous injury in 2012, and that he filed his claim for his knee injury in December 2014, right after the temporary disability payments for his previous injury stopped.
Garland’s fleet manager says he didn’t follow Godwin to the truck when he was fired and told to get his things. The manager also said Godwin didn’t report an injury to him.
The ALJ concluded Godwin failed to prove via credible evidence that he suffered a compensable knee injury arising out of and in the course of employment. The ALJ said the inconsistencies and contradictions made by Godwin factored into his decision and that Godwin wasn’t a credible witness.
The Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission upheld the ALJ’s decision. Godwin appealed.
Godwin argued there was no question he suffered a knee injury at work and that there was no evidence that his injury had happened any other way. Because no alternative explanation for his injury was proven or even offered, the Commission was required to find his claim was compensable, Godwin claimed.
His former employer noted that the ALJ found Godwin wasn’t credible when explaining where his knee injury actually occurred. The causal connection between an injury and work can’t be based on speculation, the company argued.
The Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed the previous decision. It found the ALJ’s findings were supported by substantial evidence. Godwin was denied workers’ comp coverage for his knee injury.
(Shannon Godwin v. Garland County Landfill, Arkansas Court of Appeals, No. CV-16-446, 10/26/16)