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Comp benefits still on the table despite worker's pre-existing condition

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A worker’s pre-existing neck injuries should not bar him from getting full workers compensation benefits for a back injury, a New York appeals court ruled last week.

The New York Supreme Court Appellate Division’s 3rd Judicial Department in Albany on June 18 denied an appeal by Consolidated Edison Co. of New York Inc. of a May 2013 decision by the state workers compensation board, which affirmed an administrative judge’s decision to grant benefits to John P. Lattanzio.

Mr. Lattanzio, who had a neck condition requiring surgeries and intermittent treatment since 2000, injured his back in October 2010 when he fell at work.

After several hearings and depositions in the instant claim for workers' compensation benefits, a Workers' Compensation Law Judge found that Mr. Lattanzio was entitled to benefits.

In appealing the workers compensation board decision, Con Ed lawyers asked the court to permit apportionment between the current compensable disability and the previous non-work-related, non-compensable disability.

However, the appeals court said apportionment is not applicable in conditions where the pre-existing condition was not the result of a compensable injury and the worker is able to “perform his or her job duties at the time of the work-related accident” despite the pre-existing condition.

“Here, the record establishes that claimant’s pre-existing condition was not the result of a compensable injury,” the ruling states. “In addition, although claimant suffered from back and neck pain before the October 2010 accident and was under certain work restrictions for his condition, he worked full time, and the record is devoid of evidence that claimant's pre-existing condition limited his ability to satisfactorily perform his work responsibilities.”