Court Finds Bus Driver’s Obesity Not Caused By PTSD

Liz Carey

Albany, NY (WorkersCompensation.com) – A court in New York state has found that a bus driver assaulted by a passenger was not completely unable to work, and that his morbid obesity was not causally related to his work injury.

Robert Rapaglia was working for the New York City Transit Authority as a bus driver when he was assaulted by a passenger in 2015. The assault left him with injuries to his face and neck as well as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, court records indicate.

After receiving workers’ compensation for treatment of his injuries, he was allowed to recover, but failed to return to work. Rapaglia was terminated in August 2016 for failing to return to work.

In 2017, court records show, a workers’ compensation law judge ruled that Rapaglia had a 60 percent permanent partial disability. That ruling was overturned by the Workers’ Compensation Commission board, and when Rapaglia appealed, the appellate court upheld the board’s decision.

But the court said that in rating his disability, consideration should be given to his ability to function. “…the evaluation should include the impact of the psychiatric impairment on functional ability, including activities of daily living,” the court said.

Physicians differed on Rapaglia’s disability. Court documents show that one physician who examined Rapaglia said he is able to return to work, but that his work may be hindered by his weight (Rapaglia weighs over 500 pounds). Another noted that Rapaglia was able to return to work, but could not operate a bus due to his PTSD. That psychiatrist also found that Rapaglia’s depression was due to his weight, and not his workplace injury.

However, Rapaglia’s own psychologist said that Rapaglia’s weight stemmed from the attack and the PTSD he incurred as a result of the attack.

The appellate court did not think Rapaglia’s psychologist have proven that his client’s weight gain was a direct result of the attack, or that he had proven his client was incapable of finding meaningful work outside of the transportation industry.

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