A Louisiana appeals court upheld a decision granting workers’ compensation benefits to an injured worker even though he failed to initially report the injury and despite there being no witnesses.
The Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit of Louisiana found that the worker, who suffered the injury during an on-the-job medical emergency, could collect benefits based on his own account of the incident.
Couldn’t remember much of medical emergency
Josue Rabadan was a welder for Turner Industries working at the Occidental Petroleum plant in Geismar, Louisiana.
On May 7, 2018, Rabadan was sweeping in the fabrication shop when he began to feel hot and dizzy. He tried to hold onto a table but fell to the ground, hitting his head and right shoulder.
Rabadan crawled on the floor toward a chair and pulled himself up onto it. Co-workers found him and took him to the safety manager and the site nurse for evaluation. He was transported to a local hospital where he was admitted with a diagnosis of malignant hypertension.
Rabadan had no recollection of what happened to him after he became dizzy and couldn’t remember any conversations he had with co-workers or hospital medical staff.
Complained of head, shoulder pain 2 weeks later
After being released from the hospital, Rabadan went to his primary care doctor on May 23, 2018, with complaints of pain in his head and right shoulder. He was referred to an orthopedic physician who diagnosed a torn rotator cuff, which was “more likely than not caused by his fall.”
Rabadan filed a workers’ compensation claim.
Turner disputed the claim because:
- Rabadan failed to mention the fall to anyone during the May 7 incident
- another employee reported Rabadan didn’t fall during his medical emergency, and
- Rabadan didn’t report the fall until more than two weeks after the incident occurred.
On June 25, 2021, a workers’ compensation judge found that Rabadan sustained his shoulder injury in the course and scope of his employment.
‘Shouldn’t be barred just because extent of injury wasn’t realized’
On appeal, Turner argued Rabadan failed to meet his burden of proving a work-related incident caused his injury.
The appeals court stated that a claimant’s testimony alone may be sufficient to discharge his burden of proof if:
- no other evidence casts serious doubt on the worker’s version of the incident, and
- the worker’s testimony is corroborated by the circumstances following the alleged incident.
Rabadan testified that he couldn’t remember much of what happened during his medical emergency, the appeals court said. Testimony from the safety manager and co-workers supported Rabadan’s claim that he didn’t know what was going on and wasn’t well from a medical standpoint when he fell.
As for Rabadan’s failure to report the fall until two weeks after the incident, “an employee should not be barred from recovery because he did not realize or diagnose the full extent of his injury immediately after it happened,” the appeals court stated.