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Worker gets comp benefits despite irregular opioid prescription use

Worker gets comp benefits despite irregular opioid prescription use

A New York employer can't discontinue workers compensation indemnity benefits for an injured worker whose urine drug tests showed that the man was not taking an opioid medication regularly, a New York appellate court has ruled.

Dan Harper worked for Public Energy Fuel Service Inc. in Hicksville, New York, and received permanent total disability workers comp benefits after suffering a back injury at work in 2002, according to court filings. He received a prescription for the opioid painkiller Kadian, and was required by Public Energy to undergo urine drug testing to show that he was taking the drug properly.

A doctor appointed by Public Energy to treat Mr. Harper found that he was not taking the narcotic on a regular basis, and Mr. Harper was discharged from the doctor's care, records show. Public Energy then argued that Mr. Harper had misrepresented his Kadian usage and sought to disqualify him from receiving workers comp indemnity benefits.

Court records show that the New York State Workers' Compensation Board rejected Public Energy's claim in October 2013, and the company appealed.

Mr. Harper's comp benefits were unanimously upheld Thursday by a three-judge panel of the New York Supreme Court's appellate division in Albany.

The court said that New York workers comp law allows claimants to be penalized for making false statements or representations to receive or boost the amount of workers comp indemnity benefits. However, it said evidence in Mr. Harper's case failed to show that he was diverting his Kadian pills to other people or otherwise misrepresenting his claim.

Mr. Harper “attempted to explain why he did not routinely take Kadian, but the Board rejected his testimony as incredible,” the ruling reads. “The Board nevertheless noted the lack of evidence that claimant was selling the excess Kadian or attempting to profit from it and, accordingly, found that the record did not establish that his misrepresentations were made for purposes of obtaining compensation.”

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