Workers’ Compensation Claims and Re-injuring Previous Injuries
SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION
DOCKET NO. A-5547-18
Argued June 2, 2021 – Decided June 17, 2021
Submitted by New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
On April 1, 2016, petitioner was working for Meridian Rehab. When performing her duties, she slipped and fell to the ground on both of her knees. Her left knee was in much pain and petitioner filed a claim petition and respondent accepted her claim. On June 14, 2016, an MRI was taken of petitioner’s left knee. There was no report of a meniscus tear, ligament tear, nor fracture. However, the MRI revealed there was a preexisting condition of the patellofemoral cartilage and preexisting osteoarthritis in the knee. Respondent paid for treatment in the left knee. In August 2017, petitioner testified she suffered a right knee meniscus tear while walking on the beach. In January 2018, petitioner underwent another MRI on her left knee, but this MRI showed a torn meniscus tear with a displaced fragment in her knee. This finding is entirely different from the prior post traumatic MRI of the same knee. In addition, the new left knee MRI revealed a torn ACL in her right knee. In February 2018, petitioner filed a motion seeking additional treatment for her left knee.
Testimony on the petitioner’s Motion for Med & Temp was entertained by the court, petitioner testified she was experiencing pain in her left knee but denied she injured her left knee on the beach in August 2017. She as well denied having any other incident involving her left knee. Petitioner’s orthopedic expert testified the left knee tear was in relation with the 2017 fall and not just the 2017 incident. Petitioner’s expert did concede there was no tear on the June 2016 MRI but insisted the medial meniscus was “elongated” during the 2016 fall. The meniscus tore over time from the 2016 fall. Her expert also argued her arthritis worsened from the 2016 fall and needed additional treatment. At the conclusion of the fact and expert testimony on petitioner’s Motion for Medical and Temporary Disability benefits the judge found petitioner was reliable, however, did dodge certain questions and minimized the effect her right knee condition had on her activities. The judge found petitioner’s expert not credible because he did not directly address questions posed to him and his arguments were not logical. The judge found the respondent’s expert opinions more persuasive and credible when they testified the injury from 2016 was resolved and compensated for properly and her new injuries came from the 2017 fall. The judge ruled in favor of the respondent and dismissed the complaint because plaintiff has failed to establish by objective, reasonable evidence that a need exists for additional treatment regarding a “work related” injury to her left knee.
On appeal, petitioner argued there was sufficient objective medical evidence at trial to meet petitioner’s burden to establish a necessary and related to work injury. The Appellate Court’s standard of review is reviewing decisions of judges in the Division of Workers’ Compensation, “[t]he factual findings of the compensation court are entitled to substantial deference.” Ramos v. M & F Fashions, 154 N.J. 583, 594 (1998). We limit our inquiry to whether the findings made by the Judge of Workers’ Compensation could reasonably have been reached on sufficient credible evidence present in the record, considering the proofs as a whole, with due regard to the opportunity of [the] one who heard the witnesses to judge of their credibility and with due regard to his expertise. [Ibid. (quoting Bradley v. Henry Townsend Moving & Storage Co., 78 N.J. 532, 534 (1979)).] The Appellate Court contends there was evidence in the record to clearly support the judge’s conclusion. There was no evidence the petitioner’s left knee was not related to the injury she suffered in 2016. The injuries which were found in the 2018 MRI were not those found in the 2016 MRI and there was no clear proof of an increase of arthritis either. The Appellate Court found the compensation judge did not error in dismissing the claim and affirmed the compensation judge’s decision.
Here at Hark & Hark we have an extensive history with dealing with any workers’ compensation claims. If you have had a slip and fall, a car accident, or any injury on the job please contact us at 856-354-0050. We are here to get you the compensation which you deserve.