Subsequent employer held liable for aggravation: the Singletary case

The date of manifestation (2006) clearly falls during the ‘self insured’ period. The last incident involving the cervical spine (2001) clearly falls into the period where AIG was ‘on the risk.’ (Also note the claimant received an award of 45% PPT with a credit of 30% for the prior 1992 cervical spine injury in 2003).

A trial on causation was held. The claimant’s neurosurgeon testified that “Singletary’s work duties from January 2002 forward aggravated and accelerated the underlying pathology at C4-5 resulting in her need for surgery.” The Doctor also testified that if the claimant had stopped working or taken a sedentary job after the 2001 accident, she probably would not have needed surgery.

The Judge of Compensation ruled that the work duties from 2002 onward had indeed worsened the claimant, and that WaWa (as a self insured) was responsible for her medical bills, compensation for time lost from work, and award of permanent disability.

The Appellate Panel affirmed the Judge’s decision, stating that there was credible medical evidence int he record to support the finding that the injuries were causally related to the petitioner’s work after 2002. The Panel specifically stated “this is not a case where the subsequent employment ‘merely cause[d] pain from pre-existant conditions to be manifested’ . . . rather, Singletary suffered additional [new] physical insult every day she worked at WaWa due to the heavy lifting and other stressful tasks required by the job.”

This decision has similar facts but reaches the exact opposite conclusion as the Court did in Zrno, discussed in my blog. What was the difference/ Two things: (1) First, the claimant in Singletary had an easier time showing a worsening because she was actually getting invasive surgical treatment where the claimant in Zrno was taking Tylenol every other week; and (2) the medical proofs in Singletary are so much more compelling. There is a big difference when a credible, treating neurosurgeon (like Dr. Dellasotta in the Singletary case) is on the stand providing an opinion of causation as opposed to hired experts (always the same ones, it seems) trotted out in the Zrno case.

Greg Lois is the managing partner of LOIS LLC, a 19-attorney law firm dedicated to defending employers and carriers in New York and New Jersey workers' compensation claims. Greg is the author of a popular series of "Handbooks" on workers' compensation, and is the co-author of the 2016 Lexis-Nexis New Jersey Workers' Compensation Practice Guide. Greg can be reached at 201-880-7213 or glois@lois-llc.com