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Statute of limitations not relevant in misdiagnosed injury: Court


ALBANY, N.Y.—A Lowe's Home Centers Inc. employee can receive workers compensation benefits for a misdiagnosed hip injury, even though it falls outside a two-year statute of limitations for his initial claim, a New York appellate court has ruled.

Richard Searchfield was injured while lifting a water heater at a Lowe's store in 2005, according to court records. Soon after, he was diagnosed with a hip and thigh sprain, and a workers comp law judge awarded benefits to Mr. Searchfield in 2006 based on a lower back injury and groin strain.

After Mr. Searchfield's condition worsened, he eventually was treated by an orthopedic surgeon who diagnosed him with a right hip labral tear, records show. The surgeon, who requested a surgery authorization, said Mr. Searchfield's hip injury was caused by the 2005 work accident, and that Mr. Searchfield was misdiagnosed by prior doctors.

A workers comp judge said the hip tear fell outside of a two-year statute of limitations for new claims under New York workers comp law, and ruled that the newly diagnosed injury was unrelated to the 2005 work accident.

However, the state's Workers' Compensation Board reversed that decision, saying that the hip injury was related to the 2005 accident, and therefore shouldn't be time-barred.

In a unanimous decision Thursday, a New York Court of Appeals ruled that Mr. Searchfield’s newly diagnosed hip tear should be included in his original claim. The judicial panel noted that Mr. Searchfield's initial claim reflected his hip problems, and that labral tears in the hip often are misdiagnosed as lower back injuries.

“Since claimant could not have filed a claim for causally related hip injuries until this condition was properly identified and diagnosed…, we are persuaded that this matter is not time-barred,” the decision reads.