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Workers' Compensation

New York: Death Benefits Must be Based Upon Reasonable Medical Opinion, Not Conjecture

Noting that the surviving spouse had the burden of showing a causal connection between his wife’s death and her employment, and stressing that speculative medical evidence was insufficient, a New York appellate court affirmed a decision by the New York Workers’ Compensation Board that denied the surviving spouse’s claim for death benefits. The surviving spouse had testified that his wife had developed depression after enduring multiple surgeries to treat a work-related injury and that she died after a night of heavy drinking and a possible narcotic overdose. Claimant’s expert, who never treated or examined the decedent, reviewed the medical record and spoke to the surviving spouse about his wife’s condition. The expert indicated the decedent’s compensable injuries had led to pain and “significant emotional trauma” that, in turn, caused substance abuse issues that contributed to her death. The employer’s expert contradicted that opinion and the Board rejected claimant’s expert’s opinion as speculative. The appellate court indicated it was for the Board to make a determination as to the weight to be given to the medical evidence. It had favored the employer’s expert and the appellate court could not substitute its own judgment.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the co-Editor-in-Chief and Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is co-author of Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law (LexisNexis).

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance. 

See Matter of Herris v. United Parcel Serv., 2021 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 4634 (3d Dept. July 22, 2021)

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 130.06.

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law

For a more detailed discussion of the case, see

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