What Do You Think: Can Mason Reap Benefits for Knee Condition that Job Made Worse? 

27 Nov, 2023 Chris Parker


New York, NY (WorkersCompensation.com) -- Employees generally cannot collect workers’ compensation benefits if their disability preexisted their employment. But what if the worker had the injury prior to starting the job, yet the injury was simply painful, but not debilitating? 

A case involving a mason and construction worker addresses that question. The worker began treatment in 2012 to address pain in his knees from osteoarthritis. At the time, the condition didn’t affect his ability to work.  

The worker’s new job required him to work five to six days a week, for roughly 8 to 10 hours a day, moving up and down ladders, stairs, and uneven surfaces, and carrying or pushing various construction materials. 

Over time, his pain worsened, until February 2017 when, because of the pain, he could no longer do his job. 

The employee sought workers’ compensation benefits for repetitive injury to his knees. The carrier denied the claim, based on the worker’s preexisting osteoarthritis. 

The court explained that, to establish an occupational disease based upon aggravation of a preexisting condition, the employee must show: 

(1) The condition was previously nondisabling; and  
(2) A distinctive feature of the claimant's employment exacerbated the condition in such a manner as to cause a disability. 

Could the employee obtain benefits for increased knee pain? 
A. No. He had arthritis prior to working for the company. 
B. Yes. He was able to work despite the arthritis, until his job made it worse. 

If you selected B, you agreed with the court in Freyta v. Calvin Maintenance, Inc., No. CV-22-1887. (N.Y. App. Div. 10/12/23), which held that the tasks required by the worker’s job exacerbated his arthritis to the point that it became disabling. 

The court explained that the issue was not whether the employee was already experiencing pain from the condition prior to working for the company. Rather, the issue was whether his employment affected the condition in such a manner as to cause a disability that did not previously exist. 

The court thus held that the injury was compensable. 

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