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Jun 20

Correction officer’s denial of prior back injury proves costly

Case name: Poli v. Taconic Correctional Facility, et al., No. 510991 (N.Y. App. Div. 04/21/11).

Ruling: The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division affirmed the Workers’ Compensation Board’s ruling that a correction officer was disqualified from receiving future wage replacement benefits based on his false statements on a patient intake form in which he denied any history of a back injury.

What it means: In New York, when a worker has a prior back injury but denies it on a patient intake form and during a medical examination, the worker may be disqualified from receiving future wage replacement benefits.

Summary: A correction officer sought workers’ compensation benefits after falling at work and allegedly injuring his lower back, shoulder, neck, arms, and legs. Evidence indicated that he previously suffered multiple nonwork-related herniated disks in his lower back and missed three months of work as a result of that injury. Both the treating doctor and an independent medical examiner testified that after the officer’s work injury, he denied having any history of back injury on the patient intake form. The medical examiner also testified that he specifically asked the officer if he experienced prior back pain, and the officer denied it, which was noted in the examination report. When questioned regarding these denials, the officer stated that either he was not asked or could not recall being asked about prior back pain.

The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division affirmed the Workers’ Compensation Board’s ruling that officer was disqualified from receiving future wage replacement benefits based on his false statements.

In light of the testimony of both doctors, the court deferred to the board’s credibility determination against the officer and found substantial evidence supported the ruling that the officer made false representations regarding a material fact. Also, the board provided a sufficient explanation to warrant the discretionary penalty of disqualification from wage replacement benefits.

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