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Appeals court rules employee’s narcotics no longer compensable

Appeals court rules employee’s narcotics no longer compensable

A Delaware appeals court on Wednesday affirmed an injured employee’s narcotic pain medications were no longer compensable after a two-month weaning period.

Zelda Sheppard, an employee at Seaford, Delaware-based Allen Family Foods, sustained a compensable work injury in April 2011 after a fall that resulted in injuries causing pain in her neck, left shoulder, lower back, both hips and left leg. Ms. Sheppard has been undergoing treatment for pain since the incident.

In December 2019, the company sought to terminate the compensability of Ms. Sheppard’s narcotic medications and injection treatment, according to documents in Zelda Sheppard v. Allen Family Foods, filed in the Superior Court of Delaware in Wilmington.

The Industrial Accident Board heard testimony from Ms. Sheppard’s physician, who examined her three times since 2017. While Ms. Sheppard denied illegal drug use, Dr. Brokaw testified “most” of her urine screens since 2011 had tested positive for marijuana and noted inconsistencies in her statements and treatments that indicated abuse of her opioid medications. Because of this, Dr. Brokaw advocated that Ms. Sheppard suspend her use of narcotics, documents state.

The Board concluded that the use of narcotics had not led to an improvement in Ms. Sheppard’s condition and agreed with the physician's assessment that she should be weaned off the narcotics, granting Allen Family Foods’ petition to deny compensability of the medication after the weaning period was completed.

On appeal, the Superior Court upheld the board’s opinions and judgments, affirming the decision to deny compensability.