Claimant Fraud results in Benefit Disqualification

New York Claimant Sharon Hammes received workers’ compensation benefits for a permanent partial disability. The employer alleged that she had ‘fraudulently misrepresented’ her injuries and ability to work, and a hearing was held where the employer presented the testimony of its investigator. In addition, the employer presented videotape.
The employer was able to establish, through the investigator’s testimony and the videotape evidence, that the claimant worked at a coffee shop serving customers and regularly made candy which was sold at a candy store.
While engaging in these activities, the claimant completed questionnaires stating that she was ‘totally’ unable to work, and stated that “she had not engaged in work activity for any employer.” In fact, the claimant completed 11 separate questionnaires during this period of work, in each claiming that she had no employment.
The WCB ruled that the claimant was a fraud and disqualified her for further benefits. The Board also ordered the claimant to repay the benefits she had already received (pursuant to Workers’ Compensation Law Section 114-a).
On appeal, the Appellate Court found that the claimant had misrepresented her working ability to obtain benefits. The Appellate panel relied on the findings of the WCB that the claimant was not credible, and her statements that when caught working she was “just helping out a friend” were not believable. Further, they discounted her excuse that “she didn’t think part-time work” counted as work, and that she “didn’t think she had to report part-time work” in answering the questions.
Practice Tip: Good follow-up here by the carrier – in reviewing the responses of the claimant and assigning an investigator.
Case: Hammes v. Sunrise Psychiatric Clinic, ___N.Y.S.2d ___ (N.Y. App. Div. 3rd Dep’t, Decided October 29, 2009).

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