Nurse Breaks Her Ankle At Work
A workers’ compensation insurance company may ask a judge to reduce workers’ compensation benefits based on the salary the worker might be able to earn if he or she learned new skills. The employee in the case at Board No. 024722-04, Mary Jane Doonan, a registered nurse since 1964, worked her entire career in patient care, primarily in nursing homes. Although she also worked in hospitals and as a charge nurse, she had no experience or skills with computers. She also had her own small business teaching tap dance classes a few hours a week. On August 8, 2004, Ms. Doonan was working at a nursing home operated by Pointe Group Health Care when she fractured her right ankle. Her ankle improved, but she developed swelling and pain in her left knee. She did not return to her nursing job, but on September 22, 2004, she returned to teaching dance, which she could do while sitting.
Workers Compensation Judge Rules That Employee Could Continue In Nursing
In the first of a number of hearing decisions, the judge found Ms. Doonan had recovered from her ankle fracture, but her left knee problems, which the judge found to be causally related to her industrial injury, restricted her to sedentary activities. The judge awarded § 34 benefits, based on an average weekly wage of $952, from the date of injury until September 22, 2004, and § 35 benefits thereafter, assigning two different earning capacities based on the same § 11A opinion. Without expert vocational testimony, she found Ms. Doonan could work as an office nurse or file reviewer. After this decision, there was some procedural back-and-forth to resolve the inconsistency created by using the impartial disability opinion to support both earning capacity assessments.
The remainder of the litigation revolved around Ms. Doonan’s earning capacity. In the recommittal decision, the judge took no additional evidence and again found that Ms. Doonan could return to a nursing position, including “office nurse, nurse supervisor, or file reviewer.” She assigned a $640 weekly earning capacity based on a finding that Ms. Doonan could perform part-time light or sedentary work for 32 hours per week, at the rate of $20 per hour. Accordingly, she awarded § 35 benefits from September 22, 2004, and continuing, at the rate of $187.20 per week. The case was summarily affirmed by the Reviewing Board, and Ms. Doonan appealed to the Appeals Court. Continue reading →