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Duffy v. State

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

October 11, 2013

LORRAINE DUFFY, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Appellee.

Submitted: July 3, 2013

Upon Consideration of Appellant's Appeal of the Industrial Accident Board Decision.

Roy S. Shiels, Esq., Brown, Shiels & Beauregard, LLC, Dover, Delaware for Appellant.

Natalie L. Palladino, Esq., Tybout, Redfearn & Pell, Wilmington, Delaware for Appellee.

ORDER

Robert B. Young, J.

SUMMARY

The Industrial Accident Board ("the Board") determined that Claimant, Lorraine Duffy ("Claimant"), sustained a compensable psychological injury due to her hostile work environment. The Board awarded her total disability for the period of February 8, 2006 to June 16, 2006, from the time of her injury to the Board's determination of its resolution. Claimant contended that her total disability lasted until at least June 18, 2008. That decision was appealed to this Court. On that appeal, Claimant made two arguments. First, she argued that the Board made factual errors which led to legal error by an incorrect application of the case of Gilliard-Belfast v. Wendy's Inc.[1] More specifically, she contended that the Board erred by finding that the Claimant did not change psychiatrists from Dr. Kraman-Roach to Dr. Cindrich until after Dr. Kraman-Roach wrote her a letter on July 19, 2006. She alleges that the Board compounded this error by allowing that finding to influence the Board's assessment of her credibility.

Second, she argued that the Board committed legal error by refusing to admit evidence contained in a July 2006 letter written by Dr. Lilian Kraman-Roach to the Claimant, while permitting and relying on a characterization of the letter by a witness, Dr. Neil Kaye. As to the Claimant's second argument, Judge Vaughn found no error in the Board's decision not to admit the July 2006 letter into the evidence. As to the Claimant's first argument, Judge Vaughn expressed no opinion on the Claimant's credibility. He declined to determine if the Gilliard-Belfast analysis was determinative in this matter. Instead, he remanded the case to the Board for further findings of fact and conclusions of law, so that Claimant's credibility could be evaluated on correct facts.

In November 2012, the Board rendered a revised opinion, reaching the same result, based on new findings of fact. It again rejected the Gilliard-Belfast analysis in reliance on the opinion of a treating professional. The Board found that, since the doctor who provided Claimant with no work notes was no longer treating her, the doctrine did not apply to this case.

Claimant again appeals to this Court. This Court must decide if the Board properly applied the Gilliard-Belfast doctrine. This doctrine serves to protect employees from being forced to return to work against their doctor's orders. For the reasons discussed below, the Gilliard-Belfast doctrine was not intended to protect Claimant in Duffy's position. Further, evidence on the record supports the Board's decision. The Board's decision is AFFIRMED.

FACTS

Claimant was employed by the State of Delaware in 1975 at Central Date Processing (later Office of Information Services). The record demonstrates that she transferred to the Department of State in 2002. Beginning in summer of 2002, Claimant was out of work for a period of time for cancer treatment. When she returned, she began having problems with her co-worker Fred and supervisor Carroll, which worsened in 2005 and 2006. Claimant asserts that, in April of 2005, Carroll physically threatened Claimant, who claims that she was physically shaken by the event, causing her to leave work. Her work relationship with Fred also continued to be stressful. Hence, Claimant sought assistance from the State of Delaware Employee Assistance Program in 2004. She began treatment with Dr. Kramen-Roach, a psychiatrist, whom she saw until she started seeing Dr. Cindrich, also a psychiatrist, in May 2006. Claimant continued treatment until September 2007. At the time Dr. Cindrich left the area, discontinuing his practice. Dr. Guariello continued to be Claimant's therapist. During the time Dr. Guariello was seeing Claimant, he allegedly indicated to her that she should not return to work. After Dr. Cindrich left his practice, Claimant saw several other psychiatrists, none of whom indicated she should return to work. During Claimant's treatment period with Dr. Guariello, in 2008 the therapist wrote a letter indicating that she felt Claimant could return to some type of work at that time.

In September 2006, employee was seen by Defense Medical Expert, Dr. Kaye. Dr. Kaye later testified that he believed Claimant's mental condition improved in May 2006. Previously, Dr. Guariello had advised her that her seeming ...


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