Battle of the Experts: New York Psychiatric Claim

Proving depression is related to the employment is difficult for New York claimants. The claimant bears the burden of establishing, by competent medical evidence, a causal relationship between his or her employment and the psychiatric disability. In a recent case claimant Janina Guz alleged her employment at Jewelers’ Machinist, Inc., caused her to develop a psychiatric disability: major depression.

Guz last worked in 2002. Her claim for major depression was initiated in 2007. In the meantime, she had received psychiatric treatment with her own psychiatrist, Dr. Alina Marek, in five occasions beginning after she filed her claim for benefits (she first sought treatment in January 2008). Dr. Marek diagnosed Guz as suffering from major depressive disorder and causally related same to her 2002 employment (Guz allegedly suffered bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome in 2002).

The employer had Guz examined by Dr. Areyek Klahr, who performed two independent medical examinations. Dr. Klahr concurred that the claimant had the condition, but found it would not interfere with her ability to work. Dr. Klahr also testified that the claimant’s responses were inconsistent and that her complaints did not correlate to his objective findings. On the stand, Dr. Klahr testified that the claimant did not suffer a work-related disability.

While testifying on behalf of the claimant, Dr. Malek admitted that she had no information about the claimant;s work or her 2002 carpal tunnel injury. Dr. Malek testified that she was unaware of the claimant’s prior claims history (which included multiple MVAs, etc) although she agreed that knowing the claimant’s prior medical and claims history would be useful in assessing Guz’s condition. Further, Dr. Malek stated that she had no information about the claimant’s activities of daily living or her personal life history, and admitted that her opinion was based on the claimant’s subjective account of the cause of her depression.

The Workers’ Compensation Board found against the claimant. The decision was upheld by the Appellate Division Case: Janina Guz v. Jewelers Machinist, Inc., 2010 NY Slip Op. 01870, App. Div. 3rd Dep’t, Decided March 11, 2010.

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