What happens when an employee being treated for a work injury claims to suffer another injury during the treatment? The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey recently considered this issue.
Priscilla Robinson, a flight attendant, fractured her wrist at work. Robinson underwent physical therapy for her injury. She contended that she tore her rotator cuff or aggravated an existing tear on the first day of her physical therapy. Robinson’s employer contended that the rotator cuff injury already existed and that the therapy neither caused nor aggravated the injury.
A workers’ compensation judge denied Robinson’s claim for medical and temporary disability benefits for the rotator cuff tear. Robinson testified that she lifted a bar several times to eye level during the therapy session, but the therapist testified that Robinson only performed stretching exercises. Based on Robinson’s testimony, her expert testified that lifting a bar to shoulder level could cause a rotator cuff tear. The employer’s expert testified, based on the therapist’s testimony, that the stretching exercises would not cause a rotator cuff tear.
In Robinson v. United Airlines, a decision released on September 18, 2019, the Appellate Division upheld the judge’s denial of Robinson’s claim. The issue in these types of cases is whether the activity during treatment causes the condition or aggravates the employee’s preexisting condition. Robinson’s therapist refuted Robinson’s testimony that she was doing exercises that her medical expert attributed to the onset or aggravation of her rotator cuff tear. The judge believed that the therapist, and sufficient evidence supported that finding.