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Back injury not compensable: High court


The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals on Monday affirmed judgments by the state Workers' Compensation Board of Review and Office of Judges that a worker’s back injury was not compensable.

The claimant, a Rent-A-Center Inc. assistant manager identified only as C.J.H., said he sustained a lower back injury after lifting heavy furniture and appliances in August 2019; treatment notes from that day show diagnoses of back and neck pain, muscle strain, suicidal thoughts and homicidal thoughts, according to documents in C.J.H. v Rent-A-Center, Inc., filed in the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia in Charleston.

The claimant later left the emergency department against medical advice, “expressing anger” and making threats against his boss, which resulted in the police being called, documents state.

Medical records indicate C.J.H. injured his cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine when he was "forced to move a bed out of the van alone" and then had to move a washer and dryer alone, despite instructions from his manager not to do so. Earlier that day, C.J.H.'s manager, Randy Byrd, had a "performance concerns discussion" with him regarding unexcused absences from work, documents state.

Mr. Byrd testified this was the second performance discussion in three months, and that C.J.H.’s performance had steadily declined since the first meeting. Afterward, Mr. Byrd instructed C.J.H. to wait to move the bedroom suite so he could help, but when he returned, the suite was already moved, which C.J.H. said he did alone. Employee testimonies documented inconsistencies in how C.J.H. alleged the injury occurred.

Citing these inconsistencies, inconclusive medical records, and the timing of the claimant’s performance discussion, the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the lower rulings denying the compensability of the claim.