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Appeals court tosses claim filed by ship rigger with knee injury

Ship rigger New Orleans

That a ship rigger tested positive for drug use a day after a fall at work allegedly aggravated a previous knee injury was not a factor in Tuesday’s dismissal of his workers compensation claim in a federal appeals court in New Orleans.

Darrell Boudreaux, employed as a rigger for Wilkinson Technologies Ltd. of Youngsville, Louisiana, in 2013 was riding in a personnel basket lifted by a crane over a ship when he fell out of the basket two to three feet onto the vessel's platform, twisting his knee, according to documents in Darrell Boudreaux v. Director, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, United States Department of Labor; Wilkinson Technologies; American Interstate Insurance Co., filed in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Records state that when he filled out a prehire medical history questionnaire, Mr. Boudreaux “indicated that he did not have any long-term health problems or physical conditions.” He did not respond to the question on the form asking whether he had ever had surgery. Witnesses reported that Boudreaux immediately stood up after the fall and walked away. He then filled out an accident report and was seen by medical staff and complained of knee and shoulder pain. He disclosed at that time that he previously had knee surgery and was given Aleve and cleared to return to work, which he did not do.

Instead, he was given a drug test and tested positive for amphetamines and cocaine a day after the incident, and was terminated the following month, records state.

Subsequently filing a workers comp claim under Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, his employer and its insurer denied the claim that the fall had aggravated a pre-existing condition, later citing before a federal court extensive medical records documenting knee problems and surgeries dating from 1992.

An administrative law judge issued a ruling in 2017, denying Boudreaux's claims for benefits and explaining that he had “failed to carry his burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the October 2013 fall aggravated his pre-existing knee injury” but “rejected Wilkinson's argument that the cause of the fall was Boudreaux's intoxication.”

On appeal, a benefits review board affirmed the judge’s decision, finding that the administrative law judge’s ruling “was rational that Boudreaux failed to carry his burden of establishing that the October 2013 fall aggravated his underlying knee condition given the extensive medical testimony and evidence to the contrary presented at the hearing.”

In its ruling Tuesday, the appeals court furthered that Mr. Boudreaux, in line with the earlier rulings, “lacked credibility due to his failure to provide (doctors) with his full and accurate medical history. The ALJ further reasoned that (one doctor’s) opinion carried less probative value because it was based on Boudreaux's self-reporting that his knee symptoms increased only after the 2013 fall — a fact that was controverted by his medical history.”

Officials at Wilkinson and American Interstate Insurance and attorneys representing both Mr. Boudreaux and the employer and insurer could not immediately be reached for comment. Attorney Henry Harvey LeBas, among five lawyers representing the respondents, did not wish to comment. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Labor said the department does not wish to comment. 












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