“I’m in excruciating pain,” the injured employee seeking workers’ comp benefits said. “So, how do you explain these photos on Facebook?” his employer wanted to know.
Zackery Clement injured his left lower abdomen at work when a refrigerator fell on him while he was moving it. He was diagnosed with a left groin strain and eventually had two hernia surgeries.
His medical expenses and temporary total disability benefits were covered by his employer’s workers’ comp insurer.
But Clement sought additional benefits for treatment of his hernia and a back injury, and another period of temporary total disability benefits.
An administrative law judge (ALJ) found there was no medical evidence to support a work-related back injury and that further medical treatment was unnecessary for his hernia. The judge denied and dismissed his additional claim. The full workers’ comp commission affirmed the ruling. Clement then took his case to a state appeals court.
Clement used three arguments to try to get the decision against him reversed, but for this article, we’ll focus on one having to do with photos of him found on the Internet. He argued pictures of him that appeared on Facebook and MySpace should not have been admitted into evidence. He says the photos have nothing to do with his medical treatment.
The court noted Clement contended that he was in excruciating pain, but the Internet photos show him drinking and partying.
“Certainly these pictures could have a bearing on Clement’s credibility,” the court wrote, “albeit a negative effect that Clement might not wish to be demonstrated to the ALJ or the Commission.”
So the court said there was no abuse of discretion by allowing the photos to be entered into evidence.
Clement’s other arguments also failed to convince the appeals court that additional workers’ comp benefits were warranted. The court upheld the earlier rulings.
What do you think about this ruling? Has your company ever used Internet evidence in a workers’ comp case? Let us know in the comments below.
(Clement v. Johnson’s Warehouse Showroom, AR Court of Appeals, No. CA11-800, 1/4/12)