North Carolina Appellate Court Upholds Award of Workers’ Compensation Benefits to Grocery Store Employee Who Suffered Torn Bicep While Lifting Boxes

If you were hurt at work, you probably have numerous questions about whether you can receive workers’ compensation benefits and how to go about preserving your rights. At Maurer Law, our North Carolina work injury lawyers have proudly assisted numerous individuals with securing their right to compensation after suffering a painful and disruptive work injury. In a recent opinion, a North Carolina appellate court considered whether an employee who suffered injuries while working at a grocery store should be entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. The worker suffered a right shoulder and arm injury when he attempted to lift a box of cheese from a cooler that was not marked with a weight and that was placed oddly on the pallets inside the cooler.

After receiving medical attention, the worker was diagnosed with a bicep tear and torn rotator cuff, along with other associated injuries. He received surgery, injections, and physical therapy to address his injury. During testimony regarding the injury, the worker testified that he had never lifted a box heavier than 15 pounds prior to the injury and that this box was significantly heavier than other boxes he had lifted unassisted. The job description for his position indicated that lifting of 10-pound boxes was frequent and that occasional lifting of 50-pound boxes was necessary. The worker testified that he had not seen this job description when he was transferred to his position at the cheese department from the deli, and he also stated that the description did not accurately portray the requirements of the job.

The defendant denied the worker’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits. After a hearing on the denial, the Commission affirmed the denial, and the plaintiff appealed. The reviewing Commission panel awarded benefits to the employee, finding that the unusually large box of cheese was a deviation from his usual work routine and that he was unfamiliar with the fact that larger boxes of cheese were ordered every several weeks that would require assistance with lifting. The defendant appealed.

On review, the court first recited the rule for when an injury constitutes a compensable act as opposed to an ordinary occurrence in the employee’s workday. The elements of an accident require a showing that the work routine was interrupted and that there were unusual conditions introduced that were likely to result in unexpected consequences. Reviewing the evidence in the record, the appellate court affirmed the award of benefits. It specifically noted that there was evidence about the worker’s normal work routine, the unexpected weight of the box, and the worker’s unfamiliarity with the heavier boxes.

If you were harmed as a result of a workplace accident, it is essential that you speak to a seasoned North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible. We have guided many victims through the claims process, which means we understand exactly what you are going through and how stressful this situation can be for your family and you. We offer a free consultation to help you learn more about the claims process and our legal team. Call us now at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online.

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