Gonzalez v. Tidy Maids – NC Workers’ Comp Decision

In requesting ongoing disability compensation for work-related injuries, North Carolina courts presume plaintiff’s pain, discomfort and related medical treatment is directly related to previously-established compensable injuries. cleaning.jpg

This standard was set in the 1997 North Carolina Court of Appeals decision in Parsons v. Pantry, Inc. It’s sometimes referred to as the “Parsons presumption.”

In the more recent case of Gonzalez v. Tiny Maids, Inc., an employer appealed the reinstatement of disability benefits, applied retroactively, to a worker who had suffered a compensable injury and alleged ongoing medical problems stemmed directly from that same issue. Defendant company and insurer insisted it had successfully refuted worker’s evidence under Parsons, but appellate court noted the company presented no evidence to suggest plaintiff’s discomfort or pain was unrelated to her prior work injuries.

According to court records, plaintiff was born in Mexico, had a sixth grade education, speaks little English and secured a job as a housekeeper with defendant. She was tasked with housekeeping duties at homes, hotels, offices and restaurants.

In the fall of 2010, while on her way from the employer’s office to a job site, plaintiff was involved in a car accident in which she suffered injuries to her head, back, neck and right shoulder. She also suffered vertigo and headaches as a result. Soon after, worker submitted a notice of her injuries, and company agreed to pay compensation without prejudice. She was compensated at $155 weekly since the accident, after which point she did not return to work.

The following year, company filed a form to terminate or suspend workers’ compensation benefits, asserting she was not disabled any longer and had no work restrictions.

A deputy commissioner granted defense request, and payments ceased immediately. Worker then filed a response to request a hearing. Defendants argued the request for hearing was untimely, but one was held anyway. Plaintiff requested reinstatement of benefits. Ultimately, deputy commissioner approved defendant’s request and denied plaintiff’s. She appealed to the full commission, which entered an opinion reversing the earlier decision, reinstating plaintiff’s benefits.

Because defendants did not deny compensability of the original claim, it was considered “accepted.” She continued receiving treatment for ongoing treatment. Plaintiff continued to receive treatment for strain/sprains to her neck, back and shoulder, as well as ongoing pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Commission held plaintiff was entitled under Parsons to the presumption these ongoing stated injuries were compensable. Commission also found plaintiff had conducted a reasonable job search, but had not successfully found employment with her duty restrictions.

Upon appeal, the appellate court rejected defendant’s claim that plaintiff’s filing for a hearing was untimely.

Secondly, under Parsons, the court noted it would be unfair to require plaintiffs to re-prove causation every time she sought treatment for an injury previously deemed compensable. Defense bore the burden here of showing plaintiff’s current complaints of pain to her right shoulder and back aren’t compensable. Despite the contention of successful rebuttal, defendant offered no evidence to prove those injuries weren’t caused by the work-related crash.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Gonzalez v. Tiny Maids, Inc., March 3, 2015, North Carolina Court of Appeals

More Blog Entries
State ex rel. Hildebrand v. Wingate Transport, Inc. – Use Caution in Quitting Your Job After Work Injury, Feb. 16, 2015, Asheville Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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