Vernon Sumwalt on Proving Causation of Work-Related Medical Conditions
A significant percentage of
North Carolina appellate decisions have addressed the issue of causation in workers’ compensation cases over the past several years.
In Legette v. Scotland Memorial Hospital, 640 S.E.2d 744 (2007), the Court of Appeals affirmed the North Carolina Industrial Commission’s finding that lifting a patient had caused or aggravated a nurse’s lymphedema in her arm, even though conflicting medical testimony indicated that her history of *** cancer placed her at an increased chance of contracting lymphedema as well.
This commentary, written by Vernon Sumwalt, a Board Certified Specialist in
North Carolina workers' compensation law, places the issues in Legette in their broader contexts and then breaks them down in a practical guide on how to avoid reversal on appeal. He concludes that although workers’ compensation proceedings have always enjoyed a relaxed procedural environment, including the introduction and admission of evidence, plaintiff’s counsel should lay the appropriate foundation for their proof of causation through expert testimony.
Sumwalt also asserts that plaintiff’s counsel should always conduct medical research to corroborate that expert testimony, and should avoid restricting the examination of the expert to only “possible” causes, but instead should elicit testimony of probable causation.
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