A New York Transit Authority worker can’t collect workers’ compensation benefits after an appeals court found his repetitive stress injury claim from years of working on tracks was unsupported.
The New York Court of Appeals found the worker didn’t provide sufficient medical evidence tying his repetitive stress injuries to his job duties.
Didn’t take time off or seek medical treatment
In Matter of Bonet v. New York City Transit Authority, the worker retired in November 2019 after 29 years of employment with the transit authority. During his years of employment, he was responsible for track repairs, which involved transporting tools to and from the worksite and operating heavy equipment.
During the last three or four years of employment, the worker claimed he began experiencing pain in his neck and shoulders. However, he didn’t lose any time from work or seek medical treatment before the time of his retirement.
Filed claim after retiring
After retiring, the worker filed a workers’ compensation claim requesting benefits for repetitive stress injuries to his neck and shoulders. The transit authority contested the claim, arguing the worker failed to provide medical evidence supporting the claim. A workers’ compensation law judge and the state’s Workers’ Compensation Board agreed and denied the claim.
Must be ‘recognizable link’ between condition and employment
The appeals court also upheld the denial of benefits for the same reason.
According to the court, an occupational disease “does not derive from [either] a specific condition peculiar to an employee’s place of work, [or] from an environmental conditions specific to the place of work” but from the “nature of the employment itself.”
To legally establish an occupational disease, an injured worker must demonstrate a recognizable link between the condition and a distinctive feature of employment. Any medical evidence offered to demonstrate that link must be “supported by a rational basis and not be based upon a general expression of possibility.”
In this case, the worker’s medical evidence relied too much on that general expression of possibility.
Doctor’s testimony, medical evidence not detailed enough
According to the court, “Although claimant testified at length regarding the various tasks he performed during the course of his employment, including the specific tools he utilized and the repetitive motions associated therewith, his treating physician’s knowledge of claimant’s work history and job requirements was far less detailed.”
Medical reports from the worker’s doctor filed as evidence failed to show “that he had adequate knowledge of any of the claimant’s specific job duties, except in the most generalized sense.”
Although the doctor testified that the worker developed neck and shoulder pain from work-related repetitive stress, he was unaware of the:
- specific motions required for the work
- tools used on the job
- amount of time spent each day performing repetitive tasks
- worker’s last day of work before retirement, and
- date when the worker retired.
The doctor’s failure to provide these details meant the medical evidence was too general and didn’t provide sufficient support to the worker’s claim for benefits, the court said.