Haileab v. Hammons Hotels – Banquet Server Suffers Multiple Work Injuries

Some occupations have a tendency to cause more work-related injuries than others. Construction and truck driving are at the top of the list. But food and restaurant service industries too report a fair amount of injuries to workers. receptioncenter.jpg

In the handful of years she worked as a banquet server for a North Carolina hotel, plaintiff in Haileab v. Hammons Hotels d/b/a Embassy Suites suffered a number of injuries after being struck with an ice cart, run into with a table and falling as a result of instability caused by those earlier injuries.

The North Carolina Court of Appeals recently ruled despite employer’s objections as to causation, all injuries were compensable and the worker should receive coverage of medical expenses and other benefits.

According to court records, employee sustained an injury in December 2007 when she was struck by an ice cart, causing injury to both of her feet and ankles, as well as her heel.

The following month, she sustained another injury when she was struck in the thigh with a table being moved by a co-worker.

She later filed a complaint contending her employer and its insurer hadn’t paid all authorized medical compensation for to all healthcare providers who had given her treatment in relation to the injuries sustained in 2007. Employer responded it had paid for all medical treatment by authorized physicians, but the current medical treatment she was receiving wasn’t authorized because it wasn’t related to her 2007 work injury.

Deputy commissioner disagreed. He indicated she had suffered to compensable injuries. As a result of injury to her feet, she needed to undergo surgery on her left Achilles tendon, after which she developed an antalgic gait (a way of walking that helps avoid pain). She also as a result of her earlier injuries suffered aggravation of arthritis in her knees and lower back pain.

Later, as a result of her awkward gait, suffered a fall in 2010 that resulted in injury to her right shoulder. Her back pain was also exacerbated by the fact that she was forced to walk on crutches after her surgery.

All of this, except for the fall and injury to her shoulder, the deputy commission concluded, was compensable, as it all stemmed from her work injuries. (With regard to the shoulder injury, the commission found simply plaintiff had failed to present enough evidence to prove it work-related.)

Commission also found as to her disability compensation that she was considered temporarily totally disabled for part of the time, but not all of it. Plaintiff was reportedly capable of some work for about a three-month time frame, but did not make a reasonable effort to find suitable employment during this time until the defendant reached out with a vocational rehabilitation service, in which she participated. Because those benefits were already paid, defendant was to get credit for that three-month time frame moving forward.

Both sides appealed, but the findings were affirmed.

Workers in the food service industry are at higher risk of injury than most other occupations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2012, there were 120 work-related fatalities in that industry, as well as an injury/illness rate of 3.4 per 100 full-time workers. About half of those injuries result in days away from work, job restrictions or transfers.

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

Additional Resources:
Haileab v. Hammons Hotels d/b/a Embassy Suites, April 7, 2015, North Carolina Court of Appeals

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Report: Fast-Food Workers Suffer Many Burns, OSHA Complaints Pending, March 26, 2015, Winston-Salem Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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