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Worker due past comp benefits despite late filing of claim

comp benefits

A paper company must pay past workers compensation benefits, reimburse medical fees and pay attorney costs to a man who filed a workers compensation one year after he was injured, an appeals court in Louisiana ruled Wednesday.

James Evans was employed by Memphis, Tennessee-based International Paper Co. at its facility in Campti, Louisiana, in 2016 when he claims he began to experience pain in his left leg and sought emergency care, where doctors diagnosed him with shin splints, and later because of pain, visited an orthopedic specialist who diagnosed him with a fracture requiring surgery – all covered by his group health plan and his leave covered by his employer’s short-term disability benefit, according to documents in James H. Evans Jr. v. International Paper Co., filed in the Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third Circuit, in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Mr. Evans filed his claim for workers compensation in June 2017, almost a year after his injury.

The company denied the claim, arguing that it was not notified of any compensable injury until shortly before the expiration of Mr. Evans' health insurance benefits, according to documents.

The matter proceeded to trial before a state workers compensation judge, who heard testimony from several witnesses regarding Mr. Evans’ injury — including that of the worker, who a judge described as “highly credible”— corroborating the claim that he sustained an injury while at work. The judge also cited several cases that he found supported his determination that Mr. Evans' injury was compensable, granting him maximum indemnity and past medical payments of $53,590.

On appeal, the court affirmed, writing: “Whether an ‘accident’ has occurred is judged from the employee's perspective and can include the failure of a body part that arises from and in the course of his employment. The (workers compensation judge) found that Mr. Evans proved that his left knee fracture occurred while performing his responsibilities for (the paper company)” and “there is no error in this finding.”

The appeals court also wrote that the company “failed to plead the affirmative defense of extinguishment of its obligation to pay past medical” bills and, despite a miscalculation by the lower court, failed to prove that it did not owe Mr. Evans the maximum indemnity available.

The appeals court also granted Mr. Evans an award of $3,000 in attorney fees on appeal for “successfully defending the judgment,” the ruling states.






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