What Do You Think: Was Walmart Worker’s Injury Description too Fishy to Hook Benefits?

28 Apr, 2024 Chris Parker

                               

Moundsville, WV (WorkersCompensation.com) – An employee may not obtain workers’ compensation benefits for an injury unless he can show it occurred in the course of employment. A case involving a Walmart worker addresses a situation where the employee, while insisting the injury occurred because of work, provided varying explanations for what led to the injury.

The merchandise stocker in the pet supply department at a West Virginia Walmart claimed he was dogged by a shoulder injury that occurred on March 16, 2023.

Two days later, he went to the hospital, where he completed an Employees' and Physician's Report of Occupational Injury form. In that form, he alleged an injury to his right shoulder, which occurred on March 16. He stated that the injury occurred from lifting "heavy stuff" all day long, and stated that his right shoulder hurt and he was unable to work. The hospital signed the form and listed shoulder strain/sprain as the diagnosis. The doctor indicated it was the result of an occupational injury, but did not describe the incident involved. The stocker didn’t provide medical records from that visit.

The stocker completed an Associate Incident Report on April 27, 2023, for Walmart. This was the first time he reported the incident to the company. On that form, he stated that he injured his shoulder when he "lifted a bag of dog food and did something to his shoulder." 

Finding the stocker’s varying explanations a bit fishy, the workers’ compensation board denied the claim on the basis that the stocker didn’t establish that the injury occurred during the course of employment. The board cited the stocker’s inconsistent explanations concerning the cause of his injury, his delay in informing the company, and his failure to provide medical records from his initial hospital visit.

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In addressing the stocker’s appeal of that decision, the court explained that three elements must coexist to establish a compensable workers’ compensation injury: 1) a personal injury, 2) received in the course of employment, and 3) resulting from that employment.

Did the stocker establish that his injury occurred in the course of employment?
A. No. He didn’t consistently explain how it occurred.
B. Yes. It was irrelevant whether the precise cause of the injury was lifting heavy objects all day or straining himself when lifting a specific bag of dog food.

If you selected A, you agreed with the court in Lemaster v. Walmart, Inc., No. 23-ICA-496 (W.V. Ct. App. 04/22/24), which affirmed the board’s decision that the claimant failed to establish he was injured in the course of employment. 

Specifically, the court pointed to the board’s finding that the claimant gave two different causes of his injury. On one form, he said the injury was caused by lifting heavy objects at work all day. On another, he said that the injury occurred when he was lifting a bag of dog food that was lower than shoulder height. The fact that he provided two different reasons reduced the credibility of his claim, the court found.

The court also noted that the claimant did not report the injury to Walmart until well after the date he injured himself. Finally, while the claimant visited the hospital for his injury on April 18, he failed to supply medical records from that visit.

The court affirmed the board’s denial of the claim.


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