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Two workers compensation claims filed by a man who injured his knee twice in two and a half years while working for different companies can be consolidated and paid in equal parts, the Supreme Court of Idaho ruled Thursday.
George McGivney injured his knee walking down a flight of stairs in 2011 while working for Aerocet Inc., a Priest River, Idaho, firm that manufactures floats for airplanes, and had surgery following his diagnosis that left him with a 2% lower extremity impairment, according to documents in George McGivney v. Aerocet Inc. and State Insurance Fund, and Quest Aircraft and Federal Insurance Co., filed in Moscow, Idaho.
In early 2014, following his return to work and employment in 2011 with “sister company” Quest Aircraft Co., he reinjured the same knee and filed a workers compensation claim for another surgery, which the company denied, according to documents.
Following a partial knee replacement surgery paid for with a private health insurer, Mr. McGivney tried to return to work for Quest, “but due to an adverse reaction to pain medication and a stressful work environment, he was unable to continue and eventually resigned from his job with Quest,” documents state.
In mid-2014, McGivney filed a “pro se worker's compensation complaint” seeking workers compensation benefits from Quest and its surety, Federal Insurance Company. Later that year he, by then represented by counsel, filed an additional workers comp complaint against Aerocet and its surety State Insurance Fund, according to documents.
The Idaho Workers’ Compensation Commission subsequently awarded McGivney benefits for injuries he sustained to his left knee while working for both companies, with a referee consolidating the two cases and issuing a recommendation that attributed the vast majority of liability to Quest.
The commission, in rejecting some of the referee's recommendations on share of liability, apportioned liability equally between Aerocet and Quest. Aerocet appealed, alleging “the Commission inappropriately consolidated McGivney's two injury claims. Aerocet also contends the Commission failed to determine McGivney's disability in excess of impairment from his 2011 accident at Aerocet prior to his 2014 accident at Quest,” and that the claims are not related, documents state.
The state Supreme Court in its filing Thursday rejected Aerocet’s claims: “Given that two physicians concluded that McGivney's disability should be equally split between the two employers, the Commission's decision was supported by substantial and competent evidence. Aerocet's argument that the Commission's findings are not supported by substantial and competent evidence is rejected.”
“Case law does not support Aerocet's claim that the Commission is somehow required to separately determine disability without regard to a subsequent injury when cases have been consolidated,” the ruling states.
Quest, in its arguments, requested reimbursement from Aerocet for payments Quest made to Mr. McGivney that “were actually Aerocet's obligation.” The request “is well founded in fact and law,” the Supreme Court ruled, remanding the case back to the commission to calculate reimbursements.
The court also denied attorney fees for Mr. McGivney, who requested on the basis of arguing that Aerocet’s claims were “frivolous.” The court, meanwhile, ruled "there was . . . no persuasive indication that (the company’s lawyer) interposed the appeal for an improper purpose." Similarly, Quest’s request for attorney fees was denied.
The companies and attorneys involved could not immediately be reached for comment.
In a case referred to as a “battle of the experts,” an appellate court in New Jersey on Tuesday reversed and remanded a state Workers’ Compensation Board ruling that found a woman to not be disabled, relying on one doctor’s testimony over that of another without reason.