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State high court says repeat injury not compensable

wrist injury

The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia on Tuesday reversed and remanded prior rulings that an injured mechanic’s repetitive injury to his right wrist was compensable.

Charles Rollins, a diesel mechanic at Ramaco Resources Inc., filed a claim for workers compensation benefits after he injured his right wrist at work in April 2018. Ramaco questioned the compensability of the claim because Mr. Rollins had broken the same wrist at his home in January of that year and had only recently returned to work, according to documents in Ramaco Resources, Inc. v. Rollins, filed in the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia in Charleston.

Medical records show Mr. Rollins suffered an acute distal radial fracture to his right wrist in January 2018. Later X-rays indicated routine healing, and Mr. Rollins was approved to return to work on April 9, 2018, without restrictions. He suffered the second wrist injury on April 20 while loosening a bolt with a ratchet on a piece of heavy equipment, documents state.

The claim administrator rejected the claim but, on appeal, the Workers Compensation Office of Judges deemed the injury compensable, and the West Virginia Board of Review affirmed that decision.

In its appeal to the state Supreme Court, Ramaco argued that the Board of Review committed “clear error” and that a preponderance of the evidence established that Mr. Rollins merely aggravated his preexisting, non-compensable injury that had not healed. In reviewing Mr. Rollins’ medical records, physicians repeatedly determined he had not suffered a second injury but had “aggravated a prior right wrist fracture.” Physicians also noted that the X-rays revealed osteopenia, which was non-compensable.

The state Supreme Court issued an opinion that the decision of the Board of Review was “clearly wrong based on the evidentiary record” in deeming the claim compensable in reversing the decision and remanding the case.