The Florida First District Court of Appeal has overturned an order in a workers’ compensation case, ruling that a worker forfeited his right to benefits for a workplace accident after he offered conflicting details about his medical history and the cause of his injuries.
Cal-Maine Foods had appealed the ruling by the Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) to reject multiple defenses to compensability of a work accident and related benefits.
The case originated from an accident that occurred on Nov. 2, 2014. A man was working for Cal-Maine Foods when the brakes failed on a front-end loader he was driving. He jumped from the machine and was injured.
There was conflicting testimony as to whether the man reported any injuries to the company at the time of the accident.
Cal-Maine later fired the man for reasons unrelated to the accident.
In August 2015, following the termination, the man filed a petition for benefits, seeking payment of temporary total disability or temporary partial disability benefits and authorization of a neurological/orthopedic physician to evaluate and treat his lower back symptoms.
The man listed the November 2014 accident as the basis for the injuries.
During his first deposition in May 2015, the man testified that the injuries resulting from the work accident included a broken nose, orbital fractures, concussion with brain injury and herniated discs of the neck and lower back. He requested surgery for facial fractures and treatment for his neck and back.
In his testimony, the man said that when he jumped from the machine, he hit his left shoulder on the rear left tire, which spun him around causing him to strike his face on asphalt. He described injuries specifically to the right eye and socket as well as bleeding scrapes over his left eye.
During a second deposition seven months later, the man gave sworn testimony that his injuries from the accident included the eye socket, nose, neck, middle and lower back. However, he advised that as of the second deposition, his nose and eye injuries had healed. He complained of constant neck pain.
The man didn’t seek medical treatment after the accident. He waited until a month after his termination, which occurred two months after the November 2014 accident.
The man received initial medical treatment on Jan. 22, 2015 at Shands Hospital. He claimed to have a head injury and pain that affected his memory and resulted in a headache after he was hit in the head with a baseball bat eight days before coming to the hospital.
During the second deposition when confronted with the hospital records, the man testified that his description of the baseball bat incident was false and contrived. He asserted he later “corrected” this false account and told the hospital staff the injuries actually occurred from an accident at work.
On Feb. 4, 2015, the worker proceeded to the Wesley Chapel Hospital Emergency Room, where he was seen for facial pain, advising medical personnel that he received a facial fracture “one month earlier.”
The man requested pain medications and denied back pain or headaches. He did not report a work accident.
In March 2015, the man was evaluated by a neurologist. He complained of neck, middle and lower back pain and confusion due to the work accident. At that evaluation, he denied any history of neck or back pain or similar injuries before the accident. He didn’t mention the baseball bat incident.
On Nov. 11, 2015, the man got an examination from a neurosurgeon. He complained of pain radiating down his right leg, lower back, cervical spine, shoulder and right facial pain. During this evaluation, he claimed the Nov. 2, 2014 accident was the source of his symptoms.
Although the JCC determined that the man had committed multiple misrepresentations in his testimony, the JCC ultimately declined to terminate his entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits. The appellate court, however, disagreed and reversed its ruling.
Each year, thousands of people are involved in work-related accidents in the workplace. In many cases, these injuries can have serious financial consequences in addition to creating health issues that could keep employees from earning a living and supporting their families for certain periods of time.