Assaulted by Patient, Nurse Can’t Connect Continued PTSD to Workplace Injury

12 Jun, 2024 Frank Ferreri


Augusta, ME ( -- When medical evidence could point for or against a worker, what's that mean for a workers' compensation claim?

As the court in McLaughlin v. Community Living Association, No. App. Div. 23-0019 (Me. W.C.B. App. Div. 06/06/24), that depends heavily on what the factfinder in the case things of each side of conflicting evidence.

A nurse filed petitions related to a physical injury she experienced on the job when she was assaulted by a patient. The board granted her protect of the Workers' Compensation Act but determined that the physical effects had resolved and awarded no further incapacity or benefits. That decision was affirmed on appeal.

Workers' Comp 101: In Maine, without prior approval of the panel acting through the presiding judge, briefs may not exceed 20-single sided printed pages.

The nurse continued to work for the employer for a year after the injury before changing jobs. She held the new job until funding for the program ended.

The nurse brought new petitions claiming that she was experiencing psychological sequelae from the incident at work. The administrative law judge reviewed the medical records and determined that the nurse's preexisting post-traumatic stress disorder was aggravated by the physical work injury but also that she had returned to baseline. The ALJ further found that the nurse's continuing psychological symptoms stemmed from her preexisting condition as well as her ongoing issues dealing with the workers' compensation process. Thus, the ALJ determined that the nurse's symptoms were not sequelae of the work injury.

The nurse appealed, arguing that medical evidence compelled the conclusion that she suffered ongoing total incapacity.

The determination of a cause of a worker's injury -- or continued issues related to an injury -- is a question of fact, so as the Appellate Division noted, "it is immaterial that the record also contains evidence that would have supported a different conclusion." That's because it's up to the ALJ to choose between conflicting versions of the facts.

In this case, the ALJ found that the evidence wasn't in the nurse's favor and did so based on:

+ A doctor's report.

+ Medical findings in the records of the nurse's treating therapist.

+ The report of a doctor who performed a psychological evaluation.

Thus, the Appellate division found enough evidence to affirm the ALJ's decision.

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    About The Author

    • Frank Ferreri

      Frank Ferreri, M.A., J.D. covers workers' compensation legal issues. He has published books, articles, and other material on multiple areas of employment, insurance, and disability law. Frank received his master's degree from the University of South Florida and juris doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Frank encourages everyone to consider helping out the Kind Souls Foundation and Kids' Chance of America.

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