The employer [School District] appealed a decision of the Workers' Compensation Board [Board] which ruled that its former employee [Claimant] sustained a causally-related occupational injury or disease of the neck and right shoulder resulting from her performing her duties as a school bus driver.
School District, in controverting the Claimant's application for workers' compensation benefits, argued that the Board's decision upholding the Worker's Compensation Law Judge's finding that Claimant sustained an occupational disease of the neck and the right shoulder was not supported by the evidence, asserting that Claimant filed "the claim as an afterthought, in response to being terminated from her position."
Citing Matter of Corina-Chernosky v Dormitory Auth. of State of N.Y., 157 AD3d 1067, the Appellate Division said that "To be entitled to workers' compensation benefits for an occupational disease, a claimant must establish a recognizable link between his or her condition and a distinctive feature of his or her occupation through the submission of competent medical evidence".*
The court explained that this is a factual determination for the Board, and its decision will be upheld if supported by substantial evidence and that based on the court's review of the record, there is substantial evidence supporting the Board's determination.
The Appellate Division opined that, contrary to the School District's claim, there was no indication that the medical opinions of the physicians who treated Claimant were based upon false medical histories. Further, noted the court, the School District did not obtain its own independent medical examination to contradict those medical opinions.
Although the School District maintained that Claimant's testimony was not credible, the Appellate Division opined that the Board is vested with the authority to resolve issues of credibility and the record here "contains ample evidence establishing that [Claimant] complained of neck and right shoulder pain well before she filed her claim."
Accordingly, the Appellate Division said it found no reason to disturb the Board's decision.
* Claimant had attributed her "occupationally related disease" to her bus driving duties which required a significant amount of physical effort, "particularly in steering the buses, repeatedly opening and closing the door, and operating the parking brake."
The Appellate Division's decision is posted on the Internet at: