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Court Decision Affirms that Physicians Must Have Sufficient Knowledge of Claimant’s Work Activities in Occupational Disease Claims

On 5/26/22, the Appellate Division, Third Department decided Bonet v. New York City Transit Authority. This decision reaffirms several recent decisions from the Court holding that, in repetitive use occupational disease claims, a treating physician must have adequate knowledge of the claimant's work activities before commenting on whether the work activities would be likely to cause the claimed medical condition. In this case, the Court affirmed a Board Panel decision disallowing claimant's repetitive use occupational disease claim, highlighting the fact that physician who commented on causal relationship lacked "… adequate knowledge of any of claimant's specific job duties, except in the most general sense, or the amount of time spent on those duties." The medical reports from claimant's treating physician stated only that claimant "injured himself due to repetitive motions and generically identified the critical demands of claimant's employment as bending, pushing, pulling, lifting, carrying, reaching above shoulder level, sitting, standing, and walking."

This decision serves as a reminder that repetitive use occupational disease claims are not automatically compensable merely because a treating physician asserts causal relationship for the claimed injury site. The treating physician must have adequate knowledge of the nature of the claimant's work activities, and claimants must prove that their case meets the specific legal requirements for a repetitive use occupational disease claim. These legal requirements are more exacting than requirements for a standard accidental injury claim. Consultation with defense counsel on whether evidence produced by a claimant satisfies the legal requirements for a repetitive use occupational disease claim is useful in many cases because a claimant’s initial proof often fails to check one or more of the necessary boxes required to establish a repetitive use occupational disease case.

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