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The Claimant’s Burden: Proving the Causal Relationship of an Injury

by | May 3, 2021 | MAD News, NYS Workers Compensation |

In the case of Patrick Feeney, WCB G2489270, we recently had a victory in front of Judge Snyder Haas on the issue of causal relationship of the claimant’s left shoulder and elbow injuries.  This is an established claim per an Amended Proposed Conciliation Decision for the left small finger involving a now 62-year-old man as a result of an injury which occurred on 12/27/19. Per his C-3.0, claimant was working as a Parks Utility Worker for the City of Buffalo when he was taking down the tailgate of his dump-truck while raining, slipped, and crushed fingers on his left hand.  The claimant appeared at Buffalo Surgery Center on 01/13/20 and underwent closed reduction and percutaneous pin stabilization of the left small finger middle phalanx shaft fracture with Dr. Callahan.  Six months following surgery, the claimant started reported pain and frozen shoulder in his left shoulder and elbow.  The claimant underwent serious open heart surgery before the pain in the shoulder and elbow began where he was in the hospital for an extended stay and was directed not to move his arms due to complications with his chest wall (surgery on 3/16/20).

Testimony of the claimant as well as the treating physician and IME consultant were conducted.  The treating physician causally related the shoulder and elbow to the work accident, but also admitted on cross-examination that the injuries could also be caused by the claimant’s open heart surgery as the muscles involved in the shoulder injury align with the chest wall that had to be disturbed for the heart surgery.  The Law Judge noted in a reserved decision that the claimant proceeded on the theory of consequential injuries and not direct injuries.  The Judge noted that it was the claimant’s burden to establish a causal relationship of the consequential injury to the underlying injury and the work accident.  The Judge noted that the treating physician admitted that the injuries could have been caused by immobilization following heart surgery.  Therefore, the Law Judge disallowed the claim for consequential injuries.