What Do You Think: Was CNA’s Injury Related to Work?

Frank Ferreri

Harrisburg, PA (WorkersCompensation.com) – In the medical field, credentials matter.

And as a Pennsylvania court recently detailed, a doctor’s credential can make all the difference in whether a worker receives benefits.

A certified nursing assistant for a health group experienced a sharp pain in her right elbow, right bicep, right shoulder, and right hand while transferring a resident from a bed to a wheelchair. She reported the incident to the health group, sought treatment with the group’s physician, and was placed on light-duty work.

After the CNA had been on light-duty work for roughly three months, her doctors declared that she was disabled from all employment. After this, the group filed a notice stopping temporary compensation and a notice of workers’ compensation denial, declining to pay the CAN benefits because it believed she did not experience a work-related injury.

The CNA filed a claim petition, alleging that she experienced a right should sprain or strain, right elbow sprain or strain, and a right wrist sprain or strain at work. She sought partial disability benefits for the time she was on light duty and total disability benefits for after her light-duty work was over.

The CNA presented information from her doctor, who was her family physician, indicating that the CNA was disabled due to her work injury and had been referred for pain management injections because of it.

However, the group’s doctor observed that the CNA was not wearing a brace and that the CNA informed her that she could do activities of daily living. This doctor found that the CNA’s symptoms were “largely subjective.”

A workers’ compensation judge ordered the group to pay the CNA’s medical bills for the period up until her light-duty was over but terminated her workers’ compensation benefits after that. The Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board affirmed the WCJ’s ruling, prompting the CNA to appeal to court.

Under Pennsylvania law, if there is enough evidence to support the WCJ’s decision, courts won’t generally find differently, even if there was evidence to support contrary findings.

Did evidence support the decision that the CNA’s injury was not work related?

  1. Yes. The group’s doctor’s testimony was more credible than the CNA’s doctor’s testimony.
  2. No. The CNA’s reports of pain on the job and course of treatment showed her injury was work-related.

If you picked A, you agreed with the court in Purnell v. Catholic Health Services LLC, No. 508 C.D. 2021 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 03/21/22, unpublished), which determined that the board properly affirmed the WCJ’s decision. In particular, the court upheld the WCJ’s finding that the group’s doctor was more credible than the CNA’s. The court highlighted that the groups’ doctor was a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with a practice focused on upper extremity remedies, was more highly qualified to render an opinion than a family physician with no board certifications.

“This Court agrees that substantial record evidence supported the WCJ’s findings and conclusion that [the CAN] fully recovered from her work injury,” the court wrote.

This feature does not provide legal advice.