Antonio Pickett v. Advance Auto Parts

N.C. Court of Appeals opinion filed 2/2/2016

This decision involved Defendants’ appeal from Opinion and Award of the North Carolina Industrial Commission determining that Plaintiff suffered a compensable injury and awarding ongoing indemnity and medical benefits.

Plaintiff was employed as a salesperson and driver for Defendant-Employer when an armed robbery occurred at the store. The perpetrator pointed a gun at Plaintiff and demanded money; the general manager handed over the cash drawers and the perpetrator left. Afterwards, Plaintiff complained of chest pains and headache but was required to work his full shift that day. Plaintiff stopped working the next day and never returned.

Plaintiff sought medical treatment for PTSD and filed a claim for psychological injury. Defendants denied the claim. The Deputy Commissioner ruled in Plaintiff’s favor and Defendants appealed. The Full Commission affirmed the award of TTD and medical compensation. Defendants again appealed.

On appeal, Defendants argued the medical testimony as to causation was not competent because the physicians relied on information from Plaintiff, who Defendants claimed was not credible. Because the Commission is the sole judge of credibility of witnesses and the Commission found Plaintiff to be credible, the Court rejected this argument. Defendants further argued the medical testimony was insufficient and challenged one physician’s expertise. The Court rejected these arguments as well. Finally, Defendants contended the ongoing award of TTD benefits was not supported by the evidence because there was only one work note issued for a closed period. However, the Court held the medical testimony supported the open award of TTD.

Practice Tip:  Credibility arguments are tough. You may increase your chances of success by obtaining (if possible) a favorable opinion from a medical expert, rather than relying solely on the Commission finding the Claimant is not credible and/or the treating providers are not competent.