A part-time, teenage employee suffered injury to his knees while working as a cook at fast-food restaurant in Idaho. He filed for workers’ compensation coverage several months after the accident (a slip-and-fall), but his quest for permanent partial disability benefits would span the next 10 years.
In the case of Fairchild v. Kentucky Fried Chicken, the state workers’ compensation commission ultimately granted him a permanent partial impairment rating of 3 percent, while finding plaintiff failed to prove a disability in excess of that impairment.
The Idaho Supreme Court recently affirmed that finding.
According to court records in the case, claimant was 16-years-old at the time of the accident. He was carrying garbage outside to a garbage bin when he slipped and fell on a patch of ice. He fell forward onto a concrete barrier, which caused him to strike his knees. The impact caused his knees to bleed. He went back inside, bandaged his knees and told his supervisor what happened.
A month later, he sought medical care for his injuries. His doctor diagnosed him with patellofemoral pain resulting from bilateral patella contusions. He prescribed knee braces, stretching exercises, pain medication and ice. A week later, claimant again met with the doctor after his pain did not subside. Doctor prescribed physical therapy, which also didn’t help.
He returned again several weeks later, and the doctor ordered an MRI, which did not reveal any abnormalities. Physician reviewed results with an orthopedist, and decided to continue with anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy.
The following month, plaintiff filed for workers’ compensation benefits. He also sought a second, third and fourth opinion regarding his condition. The second doctor diagnosed him with partial posterior cruciate ligament injury to one knee, and ordered steroid injections. Claimant later reported that only provided temporary relief. Doctor warned surgery would not likely be beneficial in his case, and assigned him a 3 percent permanent partial impairment rating.
An independent medical examiner disagreed with the opinion of the second doctor and assigned plaintiff no permanent partial impairment.
A fourth physician agreed with the second on diagnosis, and assigned claimant a 7 percent permanent partial impairment rating.
A hearing was held in 2012 before the state industrial commission, which did not find claimant to be a credible witness. This conclusion was based on observation of him at the hearing and disparities in the testimony he provided at the hearing and prior statements he’d made during interviews, depositions and medical appointments.
Ultimately, commission sided with the second physician and found claimant to have a 3 percent permanent partial impairment rating. This would entitle plaintiff to a small lump sum of compensation.
He appealed, but the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed, as it found not reversible error. The determination by the commission that claimant was not credible was not clearly erroneous. For example, claimant boasted to doctors about being a “great” student, despite having a 2.5 GPA. He also told one doctor he ran 25 miles a day (while working and being a full-time student who was heavily involved in music) and later changed that testimony to say he ran 5 miles daily. He also appears indicated he was involved in a number of organized sports, but that turned out not to be true. The commission had found he was “prone to exaggeration,” and took this into consideration in their findings.
The court further noted that commission is allowed to take a person’s demeanor into account, which would include one’s tone of voice, pauses before answering, body language and facial gestures. None of this would have been recorded in the record, but would nonetheless validly affect credibility.
If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
Fairchild v. Kentucky Fried Chicken, Sept. 25, 2015, Idaho Suprem Court
More Blog Entries:
Coffee Shop Worker Recovering from Winston-Salem Job Injuries, Oct. 6, 2015, Spartanburg Workers’ Compensation Attorney Blog