The Supreme Court of North Carolina reversed and remanded an earlier ruling that found a woman’s injuries compensable in spite of possible pre-existing conditions, calling for the North Carolina Industrial Commission to further review the case.
Patricia Pine was employed by Walmart in the electronics department, where she had worked for almost 22 years. In December 2011, she tripped and fell forward over the bottom of a stairway ladder, causing injuries to her arms, wrists, shoulders, neck, knees and more, according to documents in Patricia Pine v. Wal-Mart Associates Inc., National Union Fire Insurance Co., Claims Management Inc., filed in the courthouse in Raleigh, North Carolina.
After treatment and later reports of further pain, which doctors diagnosed as carpel tunnel, among other ailments that could have been exacerbated by the fall, the employer’s insurer in 2013 denied compensability of the “new injury outside of her employment to her cervical spine and further (contended) that (Ms. Pine’s) current disability, if any, is unrelated to the original compensable injury.”
Ms. Pine then requested a hearing before the North Carolina Industrial Commission, which issued a ruling in 2015 that her injuries and subsequent pain were the result of the 2011 injury, finding that her “pre-existing cervical disc disease was aggravated by her fall at work” and concluded that the employer “failed to present sufficient evidence to rebut the presumption that Plaintiff’s carpal tunnel syndrome, carpal boss, sagittal band rupture, dystrophic right hand symptoms, neck, and left knee problems are causally related” to her injury.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling, despite claims and admitting that the commission erred in applying the incorrect standard in determining compensability.
The state Supreme Court on Friday ruled that the Commission ruling and the Court of Appeals rulings created confusion.
“The Opinion and Award is wholly unclear upon which party the Commission placed, or considered as having, the burden of proof to show or rebut causation. As such, the Award must be set aside and remanded,” the ruling states. “This dismissal is without prejudice to plaintiff’s ability to raise this issue in the future.”