NC Court of Appeals Reviews Workers' Comp Cases

The North Carolina Court of Appeals decided two workers' compensation cases of note this week.

The first, Salomon v. The Oaks of Carolina, involved a Certified Nurse’s Assistant (CNA) whose shoulder was injured when she was changing a partially paralyzed patient by herself with one arm and holding him up with the other. The resident pushed back suddenly and the plaintiff heard a crack and had pain in her shoulder. The defendants argued that the injury was not caused by accident because on the weekends the facility is often short staffed so it not uncommon for only one CNA to lift or move a resident. The Court rejected defendants’ argument, holding that the unexpected event in this case was the sudden push back by the resident who does not typically resist assistance. The injury therefore is by accident, and thus compensable. Regarding disability, the Court remanded the case to the Industrial Commission to make more detailed findings of fact.

The Second case, Thompson v. FedEx Ground/RPS, Inc., involved a woman who injured her back in 2000 when lifting luggage out of her rental car on a business trip. Plaintiff appealed the Opinion and Award by the Industrial Commission, contending that the Commission failed to hold that there is a presumption of disability because of a prior award of disability from the Commission. The Court, however, held that because the prior award only addressed the back injury and not the plaintiff's alleged mysofascial pain syndrome and fibromyalgia, there was no presumption of disability and thus benefits would not be paid for the plaintiff’s other ailments. The Court also upheld the Commission's finding that the plaintiff’s alleged mysofascial pain syndrome and fibromyalgia were not related to her back injury.