NC Court of Appeals Rejects Workers' Comp Claim as Time-Barred

In an opinion issued two weeks ago, Johnston v. Duke University Medical Center, the North Carolina Court of Appeals concluded that the plaintiff's occupational disease workers' compensation claim was time-barred. The plaintiff had been a nurse at Duke, and developed several conditions in her left foot: plantar fasciitis, tarsal tunnel syndrome, and Achilles tendinopathy. These conditions developed over several years from the 1990's through 2005, but the plaintiff did not file this case until 2007.

N.C. Gen. Stat. 97-58 specifies the statute of limitations for occupational disease claims. Under that provision, "the two-year period within which an occupational disease claim must be filed with the Commission ... begins to run when the employee learns that he or she has a work-related disability stemming from that occupational disease." In this case, the Court found that because all of the plaintiff's left foot conditions were continuous and interrelated, and that the plaintiff had been told by her physician that her condition had been caused by work as early as 2001, the plaintiff had missed the two-year deadline to file her claim. The Court rejected the plaintiff's contention that each different diagnosis should be treated as a separate possible claim.