In a recent case before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal, the court addressed the issue of whether an employee had sustained a work-related accident and was therefore eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
Nunzio Galiano worked for Lucky Coin Machine Company as a pool table technician. For over 12 years, Mr. Galiano moved pool tables, pinball machines, and foosball machines. He also set up the 200-pound slates for the pool tables and carried these slates up and down stairs.
Mr. Galiano suffered lower back pain in August 2013. He continued to work for the next two months without reporting pain to his employer. Mr. Galiano testified that, in October, he carried the 200-lb. slates up stairs multiple times in one week, and after that, he suffered intense back pain. Mr. Galiano informed his supervisor of his back pain and stated that he needed to go to the doctor. While Mr. Galiano believed that his pain was related to kidney problems, his physician informed him that it was unrelated. Mr. Galiano testified that his physician stated that his back pain was related to his work. Mr. Galiano’s physician diagnosed him with sacroiliac joint dysfunction, and he was released to work, with restrictions.
After returning to work the same day as his doctor’s appointment, Mr. Galiano gave the work restriction to his employer. His work restriction included no bending, no twisting, and no lifting. He was then sent to Lucky Coin’s workers’ compensation physician, who told Mr. Galiano he was not able to return to work.
Shortly afterward, Mr. Galiano stopped working for Lucky Machine. He applied for and received short-term disability as well as unemployment benefits. When his short-term disability ended, Mr. Galiano filed this disputed claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Lucky Machine Company and Amtrust North America requested that the court make a preliminary determination on whether Mr. Galiano’s injury was work-related.
The workers’ compensation judge determined that Mr. Galiano suffered a work-related accident. The appellants, Lucky Machine and Amtrust, disputed this finding. Following a trial, the workers’ compensation judge held in favor of Mr. Galiano and against Lucky Machine and Amtrust. Lucky Machine and Amtrust appealed the finding.
The court stated that the trial court committed manifest error when they held that Mr. Galiano sustained a work-related injury. First, the court stated that Mr. Galiano did not inform his employer that he suffered a work-related accident. Even after Mr. Galiano learned that his back pain was unrelated to his kidneys, he did not inform his employer about a work-related accident.
Second, the court stated that the medical records do not support Mr. Galiano’s contention that he suffered either a work-related accident or an occupational disease that entitled him to worker’s compensation coverage. Mr. Galiano had not informed his physicians that his back pain was work-related. According to the medical reports, Mr. Galiano did not recall specific trauma or injury, and he was unsure what triggered the pain. Finally, medical records did not contain a diagnosis or written opinion from Mr. Galiano’s physicians indicating that his back pain was the result of a work-related accident or occupational disease.
Third, the court concluded that Mr. Galiano’s testimony was unreliable regarding his actions surrounding his work-related injury. He did not inform his employer that he had a work-related accident because he thought that he was suffering from kidney problems. Mr. Galiano did not inform his doctors that he sustained a work-related injury. Even after he stopped working, he consulted an attorney and applied for and received short-term disability. After being terminated from his job, he filed for unemployment benefits. After his short-term disability ended, Mr. Galiano applied for workers’ compensation and alleged his work-related accident or occupational disease.
In conclusion, the appellate court stated that the Workers’ Compensation Judge committed manifest error in finding that Mr. Galiano suffered a work-related accident. The court reversed the workers’ compensation award, and the judgment was rendered in favor of the appellants, Lucky Coin Machine Company and Amtrust North America.
At Lavis Law, our workers’ compensation attorneys represent injured employees seeking compensation for their injuries. We provide a free consultation and can be reached by calling 866.558.9151.
More Blog Posts:
Louisiana Appeals Court Holds Injured Worker Entitled to Workers’ Compensation Following Attack in Parking Lot, Louisiana Job Injury Law Blog, October 15, 2015
Louisiana Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Employer When Employee Made False Statements for the Purpose of Obtaining Workers’ Compensation Benefits, Louisiana Job Injury Law Blog, September 8, 2015