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PA: failure to disclose history of prior injuries: denial of workers' compensation benefits upheld.

CASE FACTS: Wilma Shuma was employed by Montgomery County Geriatric and Rehabilitation Center as a certified nurse's aide for two months, when on April 23, she left work because of low back pain. Pursuant to a Temporary Notice of Compensation Payable, she began receiving benefits. On July 7, 2003, her employer notified her that it was not liable for her low back injury and issued a Notice Stopping Temporary Compensation. In response, Shuma filed a petition for Workers' Compensation seeking total disability benefits as of April 24, 2003. Her employer answered denying that her back problems were work-related. At a hearing before a Workers' Compensation Judge (WCJ), the claimant alleged that her lower back problems developed over a period of two weeks as a result of rolling patients from side to side when changing and bathing them. The claimant alleged that she had not experience back pain before taking the job with her employer. However, on cross examination the claimant admitted that prior to beginning her employment with her current employer, she had undergone two lumbar x-rays. The first was in January of 2001 as a results of a tall on an icy parking lot. The second was in January of 2002 ordered by her gynecologist because of complaints of back pain experience during an exam. The claimant testified that her gynecologist "saw a little degeneration, [b]ut there was no big deal." The WCJ found the claimant was not credible, based on the fact that she failed to tell one attending physician about either of the two previous incidents resulting in lumbar x-rays and failing to tell another about the fall on her back. The WCJ denied benefits the claimant appealed. The Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Board) affirmed the WCJ's denial of benefits. The claimant appealed.

COURT'S OPINION: The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the order of the Board affirming the denial of benefits. The court held, inter alia, that the WCJ has complete authority over questions of credibility, conflicting evidence, and evidentiary weight when supported by the requisite evidence and accept or reject the testimony of any witness in whole or in part. The court held that the inconsistencies in the history the claimant gave to her own treating physicians undermined her own credibility. The court found that the claimant failed to show that the WCJ had capriciously disregarded substantial, competent evidence. Capricious disregard is a deliberate and baseless disregard of apparently trustworthy evidence. The WCJ set forth specific reasons for finding the claimant not credible. Shuma v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board, No. 1536 C.D. 2005 (Pa. Commw. 02//16/2006)--PA

Meet the Editor & Publisher: A. David Tammelleo, JD, is a nationally recognized authority on health care law. Practicing law for over 40 years, he concentrates in health care law with the Rhode Island firm of A. David Tammelleo & Associates. He has presented seminars on medical, nursing and hospital law throughout the Unied States. In addition to his writings as Editor of Medical Law's, Nursing Law's & Hospital Law's Regan Reports, his legal articles have been published in the most prestigious health law journals. A prolific writer, his thousands of articles, as well as his achievements as an attorney and lecturer, have won him recognition in Martindale-Hubbell's Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, Marquins Who's Who in American Law, Who's Who in America and Who's Who in the World.
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Title Annotation:Legal Case Briefs for Nurses
Author:Tammelleo, A. David
Publication:Nursing Law's Regan Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2006
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