A fifty-three year old Nassau medical secretary had been working at a hospital for a number of years when on December 29, 1967 she slipped on a door sill. The medical secretary fractured her left hip. A nail and a pin were used to repair the medical secretary’s hip. She was confined to bed at a nursing home for six months. The medical secretary filed a claim for permanent total disability benefits. After her surgery, a neurologist examined the medical secretary and found that she was also suffering from a spinal degenerative process and that around thirty to fifty per cent of her condition was related to the degenerative disease instead of to the accident.
For this cause, the employer refused to pay the permanent total disability benefits after six months. The employer claims to have paid for her medical care until maximum medical improvement had been reached. After the sixth month, the total disability of the medical secretary was no longer due to the accident at work but it was due to the pr-existing spinal disease.
At the trial, the Suffolk doctor to whom the medical secretary was assigned testified that the medical secretary had worked for him for years. And he had been largely satisfied with the medical secretary’s work performance. However, he had noticed that the medical secretary’s health has been consistently and continuously deteriorating. She had lost a lot of weight and appeared severely malnourished. She had difficulty walking and often, she had to brace herself because she was unsteady on her feet. The doctor testified that had the medical secretary not injured herself, he would have asked her to resign. Her work has deteriorated just before the accident. If the medical secretary applied for a job on the day of his accident, he would not have hired her. He thought that the woman’s severe malnutrition could also be the reason why a slip resulted in a severe fracture.
The judge of Industrial Claims was sympathetic with the medical secretary but he denied her claim. He did not think that the accident aggravated the medical secretary’s underlying psychological and neurological disease. He also found that the medical secretary’s disabilities were not aggravated by the injury she sustained at the workplace. Despite this, the judge found that the woman was now completely unemployable.
The only question on appeal is whether or not the accident and the resulting disability to the medical secretary are compensable.
The Court finds that her immediate supervisor knew that the medical secretary was already disabled even before her accident and while she was working on the job. The immediate supervisor was a medical doctor and he observed that the medical secretary’s health was already failing. She could barely move and walked very slowly; he noted that her behavior was becoming more and more eccentric and if he even testified that if she had not been injured, she would have been terminated because of her disability. Her disability was obvious for a long time. After the accident the medical secretary was no longer able to work. It is clear that her disability was aggravated by the injury she sustained at the workplace. The mental and emotional collapse which accompanied the injury is also a disability. At the time of her injury her work was passable-it was a downgrade from the good and excellent work she used to be capable of but at the time of her spinal injury, her work was still acceptable. The Court found that the Judge of Industrial Claims erred when he did not find her disability compensable under the Special Disability Fund.
The order of the Judge of Industrial Claims is reversed and remanded.
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