Can an injured truck driver collect workers’ comp benefits if he failed to disclose that he self-published several books while recovering from his injury?
A New York appeals court found the driver’s failure to disclose his self-published books warranted a temporary suspension, but not a permanent disqualification of future benefits.
Authored, published number of books on Amazon
John Koratzanis was a concrete truck driver for U.S. Concrete, Inc. Koratzanis injured his knees, left hip and right leg, foot and ankle while at work in October 2017. He immediately filed a workers’ compensation claim and was granted benefits.
A few months later, U.S. Concrete contested the ongoing benefits, arguing that Koratzanis failed to disclose that he had authored and self-published a number of books on Amazon during the period of time that he was collecting workers’ compensation benefits.
After a hearing, a worker’s compensation law judge suspended Koratzanis’ benefits until certain surveillance evidence became available. There were further proceedings and the judge found Koratzanis failed to disclose his post-accident publishing activities, which is a violation of New York’s Workers’ Compensation Law. The judge imposed a penalty that resulted in no compensable lost time from June 1, 2018 to Sept. 16, 2020. No discretionary penalty, which would have resulted in permanent disqualification of benefits, was imposed.
U.S. Concrete requested the case be reviewed by the Workers’ Compensation Board. The company argued that a permanent disqualification from future benefits was warranted, but the board affirmed the judge’s decision on March 26, 2021.
‘Made no effort to disguise his endeavors’
On appeal, U.S. Concrete argued again that a permanent disqualification of future benefits should be imposed.
The appeals court found there was no question that Koratzanis failed to disclose his publishing and related marketing activities. However, the appeals court stated that “the record reflects that (Koratzanis) made no effort to affirmatively disguise his writing and publishing endeavors, such as adopting a pen name, and was readily forthcoming about his activities when questioned.”
Because of this, the appeals court upheld the prior decision.