Kelly v. Ray of Light Homes, LLC – Proving Causation, TTD

Plaintiff in North Carolina Appeals Court workers’ compensation case of Kelly v. Ray of Light Homes, LLC et al. undoubtedly had been through an enormously difficult time.handsholding.jpg

Her adult brother, for whom she was a 24-hour caregiver through a residential care program, died suddenly. Making matters worse was that on the day of his death, she suffered a serious injury when she rushed to his side to help him as he had fallen onto the floor and lost consciousness. Another injury was later discovered which she asserts was related to the incident.

On top of all that, she had to fight her employer to prove the injury was work-related, that those injuries were causally related to the incident and that she was entitled to temporary total disability. She was not successful on each of those fronts.

Charlotte workers’ compensation attorneys recognize that each case has its unique complications, and proving every element is essential to obtaining our clients the compensation they deserve.

In this case, plaintiff was employed for two years by defendant company, which allowed people with individual and developmental disabilities to live in non-institutional environments, providing financial and medical resources to those disabled individuals. Plaintiff was an alternative family living caregiver for her adult brother, who suffered from retardation, autism and paranoid schizophrenia. She received payments for this work.

One morning in September 2009, plaintiff awoke to find her brother had fallen onto the floor. She tried to get her brother up off the floor, but he became unconscious and collapsed. In the course of coming to his aid, plaintiff felt a tear in her lower back and fell onto her knees.

Her brother died later that day.

Several months later, plaintiff filed a claim with her former employer, asserting she had suffered a work-related injury to her knees and back and sought compensation. However, defendant company denied the request, asserting plaintiff was an independent contractor and was not acting in the normal course of job-related functions at the time of the incident.

Plaintiff requested a hearing seeking workers’ compensation. She amended her complaint to indicate she also suffered a hernia as a result of the accident due to strain in her abdomen.

Deputy commissioner determined in 2013 plaintiff was in fact an employee of defendant company and had sustained compensable injury to her back, both knees and her stomach and was entitled to temporary total disability (TTD) until such time she found suitable employment.

Defendants appealed the case to the full commission, which determined the back and knee injuries were compensable. However, it was decided plaintiff lacked adequate evidence to show her hernia was caused by the work accident. Further, commission curtailed her TTD from date of one month after the accident to one year after the accident, plus coverage of medical expenses and vocational services.

Both sides appealed. Plaintiff argued commission was wrong in finding her hernia wasn’t compensable and also in finding she wasn’t entitled to TTD after October 2010. Defendant argued commission erred in finding plaintiff was disabled for that length of time and also in awarding vocational services because she was not disabled.

North Carolina appellate court affirmed in part, reversed in part. Justices ruled the court did not err in finding hernia was not compensable, However, they found plaintiff actually was not entitled to TTD because she did not prove she could not work. Although she stated following an examination for Social Security that she was “disabled from working,” no one from that agency testified on her behalf about this assertion. Further, she only looked for employment once, and stated after that she “stopped trying.” She did not indicate she had made a reasonable effort to find employment or that it would have been futile for her to seek other employment because of her lack of education or experience.

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

Additional Resources:
Kelly v. Ray of Light Homes, LLC et al., July 7, 2015, North Carolina Court of Appeals

More Blog Entries
O’Neal v. Inline Fluid Power, Inc. – Denial of Indemnity Benefits, July 5, 2015, Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Attorney Blog

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