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State appeals court rules for worker in case over worsening injuries

State appeals court rules for worker in case over worsening injuries

A Kentucky appeals court on Friday reversed an administrative law judge’s ruling that barred the reopening of an injury case for a hotel worker that slipped while cleaning.

Maria Jimenez, a former employee at a Louisville Holiday Inn hotel, injured her head, neck, left shoulder and back in June 2014 when she slipped, fell and lost consciousness while cleaning a bathroom, according to documents in Jimenez v. Lakshmi Narayan Hospitality Group Louisville, filed in the Court of Appeals of Kentucky in Frankfurt.

Ms. Jimenez filed a workers compensation claim that was denied. She later filed suit and the case was heard in 2016. Ms. Jimenez had paid $11,322 in medical expenses, court documents state. In May 2017, a chief administrative law judge awarded Ms. Jimenez temporary total disability benefits, saying her injuries were not permanent.

In July 2019, Ms. Jimenez filed a motion to reopen “on the ground of change of disability as shown by objective medical evidence,” court documents state. Medical records indicated Ms. Jimenez’s condition had deteriorated since May 2017, when she was diagnosed with cervicalgia, a condition causing pain in the neck and shoulders, and depressive disorder, which was said to be work-related. In April 2018, Ms. Jimenez was also diagnosed with cervical disc disease.

Holiday Inn filed a response and objection in July 2019, saying that Ms. Jimenez’s motion to reopen should be dismissed based upon the ALJ’s previous findings that she had not sustained a permanent injury “and the principle of res judicata,” which bars a case from being relitigated.

The ALJ granted Ms. Jimenez’s motion to reopen the case, which was then assigned to another ALJ who found that res judicata was inapplicable, that Ms. Jimenez had sustained her burden on reopening and established a worsening of her condition and awarded her permanent partial disability benefits. Holiday Inn filed a petition for reconsideration and appealed to the Workers Compensation Board. In April 2021, the board reversed and remanded the claim to the ALJ.  

Ms. Jimenez appealed again and the Court of Appeals found the application of res judicata was not applicable, citing Ms. Jimenez’s multiple new and worsening injuries since the original 2014 incident as grounds, and that the board erred in denying her motion to reopen. The appeals court directed the board to reinstate the award of the ALJ.