Discrete Event vs. Injury Over Time: The Supreme Court Weighs In

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On August 26, 2021, the Supreme Court of Virginia issued an Opinion in City of Charlottesville, et al. v. Sclafani, Record No. 200791 (Va. Aug. 26, 2021), which provides additional guidance regarding the Van Buren “injury by accident” line of cases. 

After a series of appeals and remands, the Court of Appeals affirmed the Commission’s determination that Sclafani, a police officer, sustained a compensable injury by accident when he injured his left shoulder during a four-hour afternoon training session.*  During that session, the claimant’s activities included being put on the ground and handcuffed, picked up, and moved away. 

The Supreme Court disagreed with the reasoning of the Court of Appeals, noting that the Court of Appeals seems to establish a “bright line rule that a four hour time period is sufficiently temporally precise to establish a compensable injury under the Act.” 

The Supreme Court found that asserting that an injury occurred over a four hour time period where multiple potential causative events occurred is not enough to establish

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Court of Appeals: Pharmacies are Health Care Providers Subject to One Year Statute of Limitations

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In Summit Pharmacy, Inc. v. Costco Wholesale, Record No. 0970-20-1 (Mar. 30, 2021), the claimant was under a medical award. Summit Pharmacy (“Summit”) provided prescriptions to the claimant for her injury and the employer made partial payments to Summit for those prescriptions. Four years after Summit received its last partial payment from the employer, Summit filed a claim seeking full repayment.

Va. Code § 65.2-605.1 allows health care providers to file claims contesting the

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Supreme Court of Virginia Rules on Obvious Sudden Mechanical or Structural Change in Workers’ Compensation Case

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In Handel v. Alexandria City Public Schools, (October 15, 2020) the Supreme Court of Virginia found that the Court of Appeals incorrectly applied and defined the legal requirement of an “obvious sudden mechanical or structural change in the body.”

The claimant, a teacher, slipped on a puddle on her classroom floor.  She landed on her right side, alleging injuries to several body parts.   The parties agreed that the claimant sustained several injuries in the fall, but

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Payment of Medical Bills Sought Despite None Owed

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The claimant had previously settled his workers’ compensation claim.  Following settlement approval, the claimant, by counsel, filed a claim seeking full payment of medical services from a medical provider.  Partial payment of the bills had been made, with an outstanding balance of approximately $25,000 remaining. 

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Supreme Court Affirms Permanency Ratings Given Before Implantation of a Prosthesis

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In Loudoun County v. Richardson, the claimant injured his hip in a work accident.  The claimant’s treating physician performed a hip replacement surgery and then gave the claimant an 11% rating for loss of use.  Later, the treating physician was asked to calculate the claimant’s level of impairment before the hip replacement surgery, which the doctor determined was 74%.

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Court of Appeals Affirms Willful Misconduct Defense in Seat Belt Case

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In Mizelle v. Holiday Ice, Inc., claimant got into the employer’s truck to make a delivery and started driving without putting his seat belt on.  He knew the law required him to wear a seat belt but admitted that he did not put it on and intended to put it on later during the trip.  Within five minutes of starting the trip he lost control of the truck and was injured when he was ejected from it during the crash.

The defendants, represented by Amanda Belliveau, prevailed at the Commission on a willful misconduct defense for the claimant’s failure to wear his seat belt.

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Sole Stockholder Not Employee Under VA Workers’ Compensation Act

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The claimant was injured at the auto glass company he owns.   The business had a workers’ compensation insurance policy but the insurer argued that the claimant was not an employee as defined by the Act so he was not subject to the policy’s coverage.

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Climbing Fall Not in the Course Of the Employment

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In Morres v. Earth Treks Crystal City Climb, the claimant worked at a recreational climbing gym.  The employer required employees to clock in before their shifts and prohibited employees from performing personal climbs while on the clock.  Before clocking in for her shift, the claimant did a warm-up climb, which she said was in preparation for performing rope maintenance.  She climbed with another co-worker, who was not scheduled to work that day.  During her warm-up climb, she took a practice fall.  She was injured in the fall.

The Deputy Commissioner found that the claimant was engaged in personal, recreational rock-climbing and was not in the course of her employment when the injury occurred.  On Review, the full Commission agreed, stating “…we do not find whatever ephemeral benefit the employer might receive from the claimant sharpening her climbing skills sufficient to bring

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Telehealth Treatment Did Not Affect Weight Given to Doctor's Opinion

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On January 6, 2020, the Commission briefly addressed the issue of telemedicine in the treating physician relationship.  In Carter v. Mondelez International, the claimant was injured in a motor vehicle accident and was treating with a psychologist for PTSD

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Limousine Driver’s Accident Did Not “Arise Out Of” the Employment

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In Sorour v. Avalon Transportation, the claimant, a limousine driver, was injured in a single vehicle accident. At his supervisor’s request, the claimant was driving to the company’s office.  As he exited the highway he hit the guardrail on the exit ramp at a low speed, causing his injuries.

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