Spinal sprain victim fails to tie injury to work activity

By Carrie Salls | Mar 27, 2017

CHARLESTON – Contradictory statements made after an SDR Plastics Inc. employee suffered a spinal injury resulted in denial of his workers’ compensation claim.  

The claim denial entered on Feb. 22, 2016, by the West Virginia Workers’ Compensation Board of Review was affirmed on March 3 by the State of West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.


In the claim, Dallas C. Totten alleges that he suffered a lumbosacral spine injury on Oct. 24, 2014, when he was moving a heavy product on the job.


Totten submitted an injury report to SDR one week later, on Oct. 31, 2014, and a doctor at Jackson General Hospital’s emergency department filed his portion of the report on Nov. 3, 2014, confirming that Totten had a lumbosacral sprain, but stating that the injury was related to a motor vehicle accident Totten was involved in nearly a year before in December 2013.


Despite Totten’s claim that he was injured at work, three other SDR employees gave differing accounts of the events that occurred on the date that Totten was allegedly hurt.


Specifically, Totten’s shift supervisor said he assigned Totten work for the day that did not involve a lot of physical activity because he noticed that Totten was not looking well at the start of the shift. The supervisor said Totten’s pain continued to get worse throughout the day, but he claimed he could continue to work and never mentioned that the pain resulted from a work-related injury.


Totten later left partially through his shift and, according to the supervisor, never told him he was leaving. Totten was later fired.


In addition, SDR’s safety coordinator reported that Totten told him that the injury he was dealing with was not work-related and was not reported as such.


Finally, co-worker James Patterson reported that he was working with Totten when the injury allegedly occurred. Totten said Patterson told him he might have had kidney stones, and Patterson was not doing any type of strenuous physical activity on the alleged date of the injury.


“The Office of Judges found that when comparing the assertions made by Mr. Totten with those of his fellow employees, it is clear that the record is filled with contradictory statements,” according to the appeals court ruling, and that Totten’s claims were refuted by the other reports.


“We agree with the reasoning and conclusions of the Office of Judges, as affirmed by the Board of Review,” the appeals court said in its decision.

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