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Testimony that Landscaper Fabricated Injury Clips Workers’ Comp Claim 

06 Jul, 2023 Chris Parker

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Phoenix, AZ ( -- As long as there is evidence to support an ALJ’s denial of workers’ compensation benefits to an employee, a court is unlikely to overturn it. 

That was the case in Cole v. Industrial Commission of Arizona, No. 1 CA-IC 22-0043 (Ariz. Ct. App. 06/06/23, unpublished), where there was conflicting testimony about whether a landscaper was injured in a fender bender on the way to a job site. 

The landscaper was in a pickup truck with four coworkers when the driver rear-ended another car causing a minor accident.  

The five men were traveling on a freeway off-ramp at 50 miles per hour when the driver slammed on the brakes and skidded into the car in front of him. Immediately after the accident, all but one of the pickup truck passengers, including the claimant, said they were "fine." 

The company supervisor arrived and was told by the workers that no one was injured. They all then traveled to the worksite. Once at the worksite, the claimant began to complain of back pain and went to urgent care, where he received a prescription. 

The following week, the claimant filed a workers’ compensation claim and began seeing a chiropractor on a regular basis. The Industrial Commission denied the claim, and claimant took his case to court. 

The court of appeals noted that the claimant testified that he immediately complained of neck and back pain after the collision. However, the driver of the pickup told a different story. He testified that, while standing on the side of the road following the accident, he overheard the claimant and another worker commenting to each other that they should say that they were injured. Further, the supervisor testified that he asked everyone who had been in the truck if they were hurt so that he could report it to the police officer. No one claimed to be injured at that time. 

In reviewing an industrial commission decision, the court noted, the ALJ's findings will not be disturbed unless the conclusions cannot be supported on any reasonable theory of evidence. Where there is conflict in the evidence or where two different inferences may be drawn from the evidence, the ALJ has the discretion to resolve those conflicts and choose either inference; a reviewing court will not disturb that choice unless it is wholly unreasonable. 

Here, the claimant pointed out that there was conflicting evidence as to whether he reported his injuries at the scene. He alleged that the ALJ failed to consider evidence that he was injured and that the decision should therefore be overturned.  

But to prevail, the court stated, the claimant had to show that there was no reasonable evidence supporting the ALJ's findings. He failed to do that. “[The claimant] misunderstands the role of this Court; it does not re-weigh the evidence,” the court wrote. 

Because the claimant failed to show that the ALJ’s findings were unreasonable or unsupported, there was no basis for his appeal. The court affirmed the ALJ’s determination that the claimant did not establish a compensable injury. 

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