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Workers’ Compensation – Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Occupational Disease – Temporary Total Disability

Williams v. City of Wilmington (Lawyers Weekly No. 11-16-1080, 16 pp.) (Linda M. McGee, J.) Appealed from the Industrial Commission. (Victoria M. Homick, J.) N.C. App. Unpub. Click here for the full-text opinion.

Holding: A plaintiff’s carpal tunnel syndrome and “trigger finger” were compensable occupational diseases pursuant to G.S. § 97-53(13) since the commission’s relevant findings are supported by the evidence in the record.

Background

The plaintiff initiated this action before the Industrial Commission on Dec. 12, 2008 by filing a Form 18. She alleged that she suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome and trigger finger – or tenosynovitis – in her right wrist and hand, which constituted an accident or occupational disease as defined in the Workers’ Compensation Act.

Plaintiff claimed that her wrist and hand issues were a result of her work with the defendant-city, which work involved extensive typing on computers. The city contested the plaintiff’s claim by filing a Form 61, in which the city claimed the plaintiff’s injuries did not arise out of and in the course of her employment. On April 29, 2010, the deputy commissioner concluded that the plaintiff’s carpal tunnel and tenosynovitis injuries constituted an occupational disease as contemplated under the Act. The defendants appealed the deputy commissioner’s award to the full Industrial Commission.

The Commission filed its opinion and award on Nov. 1, 2010, affirming all the findings and conclusions of the deputy commissioner relevant to the appeal before this court and ordered the defendants to pay the plaintiff temporary total disability compensation payments, along with other expenses. The defendants appeal.

Discussion

The defendants argue there was insufficient evidence to show that the plaintiff’s employment “actually caused her conditions.” The defendants misunderstand the plaintiff’s burden and the role of the Commission.

The Commission need only determine that the plaintiff’s employment created an increased risk of, and was a significant contribution to, her carpal tunnel and tenosynovitis. The plaintiff need not prove that her employment was the sole cause.

The defendants do not contest any specific findings of fact; they simply argue, in effect, that the greater weight of the evidence supports their position. The defendants argue that Dr. Bahner’s testimony should have been given greater weight than Dr. Moore’s testimony.

Weight and credibility determinations are the sole province of the Commission. The Commission’s relevant findings are supported by the evidence in the record, and these findings support its conclusion that the plaintiff’s employment with the city increased the risk of contracting, and significantly contributed to, her carpel tunnel and tenosynovitis.

We affirm.


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