Workers' Compensation
Spring 2023

Circuit Court Judge Affirms Workers’ Compensation Commission’s Denial of Benefits Based on Claimant’s Questionable Actions

F&P attorney Mike Bennett successfully defended an appeal of a decision from the Workers’ Compensation Commission which found the claimant achieved maximum medical improvement in August 2020.  The case was tried before the Honorable Peter K. Killough in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County on April 25, 2023.  When the case was originally tried at the commission back in 2020, Mike Bennett was able to convince the commission that the claimant had reached maximum medical improvement despite the absence of a medical opinion explicitly stating the same.  This defense was crafted together by highlighting the fact that the claimant continuously told his physical therapist that he was asymptomatic for a period of three consecutive months in the summer of 2020 while contemporaneously presenting a vastly different picture to his treating physician.  This suspicious behavior reached a crescendo when the claimant told the physical therapist that he was completely pain-free with no complaints, only to present to his treating physician less than 24 hours utilizing a cane and alleging unrelenting radicular complaints.

Even though the commission found the claimant to be at maximum medical improvement as of August 2020, he continued to consistently treat through 2023 and refused to settle his case prior to trial.  The stakes at the trial were therefore rather significant since they included nearly three years of temporary total disability benefits, an impressive amount of medical bills, and requests for ongoing treatment.  Discovery proved to be very fruitful for the defense, as additional documents were procured which showed the claimant had extensive prior injuries despite denying the same to his treating physician.  This documentation proved to be vital during the de bene esse deposition of the claimant’s expert witness, who vacillated on his opinion on the claimant’s physical condition during cross-examination.  This testimony formed the basis for a motion for judgment by the defense, which Judge Killough denied by the slimmest of margins.  In delivering his opinion following closing arguments, Judge Killough conveyed that there was very little evidence to support the claimant’s case, and he found that the commission justly considered all of the facts and law in reaching its decision.  Accordingly, Judge Killough found in the defense’s favor on all issues and affirmed the decision of the Workers’ Compensation Commission, thereby saving the defense over six figures in potential exposure.

Written by counsel Mike Bennett.