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Worker fails to show injury caused by occupational disease

Shoulder pain

A police department worker failed to show her shoulder and arm injuries were related to her work.

In Matter of Barker v. New York City Police Department, a three-judge panel of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, 3rd Department affirmed on Thursday denial of workers compensation claims to the worker, holding they were not related to an occupational disease.

Nielda Barker worked as an evidence property control specialist, and her responsibilities included hand-scanning and storing evidence at the police precinct, cataloging evidence on a computer and transporting evidence to storage facilities.

In January 2016, she claimed that she was experiencing pain in her shoulders and arms, and in November that year she filed a claim for workers comp benefits, citing injuries to her right shoulder, bicep and elbow and her left wrist, forearm and elbow, which she attributed to repetitive overhead activities and lifting heavy objects.

A workers compensation law judge determined that she had not sustained an occupational disease or repetitive stress accidental injury and denied her claim. The New York Workers Compensation Board upheld the decision, and Ms. Barker appealed.

The appellate court affirmed the decision. Ms. Barker argued that her shoulder injuries should constitute an occupational disease because the law defines occupational disease as one “resulting from the nature of employment and contracted therein.” However, she offered no medical testimony, only medical records stating that her injuries were work-related, and the court noted that her records also failed to show that medical providers had adequate knowledge of her work activities or medical history. As a result, the court held that neither her testimony nor the medical evidence was “sufficient to establish a recognizable link between her shoulder injuries and a distinctive feature of her work, or that her shoulder injuries were attributable to repetitive movements associated with her work.”

The appellate court also held that the board properly rejected her argument that she sustained an accidental injury to her shoulders and arm. Although an accidental injury may develop over time, said the court, it also held that Ms. Barker failed to show, with competent medical evidence, that any of her conditions resulted from “unusual environmental conditions or events assignable to something extraordinary.”


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