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Fowler v. State

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

January 28, 2015

STANFORD FOWLER, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Appellee.

Submitted: October 6, 2014

Upon Appellant's Appeal from the Industrial Accident Board's Decision, AFFIRMED.

William R. Peltz, Esquire, Kimmel, Carter, Roman, Peltz & O'Neill. P.A., Attorney for Appellant.

Francis X. Nardo, Esquire, Andrew M. Lukashunas, Esquire, Tybout, Redfearn & Pell. P.A., Attorneys for Appellee.

OPINION AND ORDER

M. Jane Brady, Superior Court Judge

I. Introduction

Appellant Stanford Fowler ("Appellant, " "Fowler") appeals the decision of the Industrial Accident Board (the "IAB, " the "Board") denying him compensation for work injuries that he allegedly suffered as a result of an incident on April 9, 2011. Fowler claims that he was injured while working for Appellee State of Delaware ("Appellee, " "Employer") at the Port of Wilmington (the "Port"). The injuries allegedly occurred when Fowler intervened in an attempt to stop a coworker's out-of-control forklift. Shortly after his alleged injury, in 2011, Appellant filed an initial Petition to Determine Compensation Due, which was subsequently withdrawn by Appellant.[1] On April 8, 2013, Fowler filed the instant Petition to Determine Compensation Due ("IAB Petition"). After a hearing on the merits (the "Hearing"), the Board determined that Fowler failed to meet his burden of demonstrating that he suffered an injury or aggravation of an injury as a result of the April 9, 2013 incident. In a decision dated December 2, 2013, the IAB denied compensation to Fowler.[2]

Following the IAB's denial of benefits, Fowler filed the instant appeal in Superior Court. Briefs were submitted, and the matter was received in Chambers on October 6, 2014. For the reasons given below, the Court now AFFIRMS the decision of the IAB.

II. Facts and Procedural Background

A. Appellant's Previous Accidents and the Instant Incident

Prior to the accident at issue, Appellant had been involved in a motor vehicle accident in February 2010[3] and a separate work forklift incident in April 2010.[4] Appellant's testimony on the effects of the February 2010 motor vehicle accident was somewhat inconsistent. At one point in the Hearing, Appellant testified that the injuries from the February 2010 accident were to his left side, shoulders, and knee.[5] Later in the hearing, however, Appellant insisted that these injuries were only on his left side.[6] When it was pointed out that the medical records indicate injuries on both sides, Appellant revised his assessment to say that the injury was "mainly" on his left side.[7] Appellant was treated by a chiropractor for his injuries from the 2010 motor vehicle accident.[8] While the chiropractor's records indicate general treatment of Appellant's neck and back, Appellant maintained that it was only for pain in his left side.[9]

As a result of the April 2010 forklift incident, Appellant was taken to the hospital.[10]Appellant reported injuries to his back and shoulder "on [his] right side."[11] Appellant was deemed totally disabled from April to September 28, 2010 due to the April 2010 incident, and Appellant received worker's compensation.[12] Appellant was treated for his injuries by Dr. Emmanuel Devotta until about October 2010, after which Appellant received no further treatment until after the April 9, 2011 accident.[13]

On Saturday, April 9, 2011, Appellant was working as a forklift operator at the Port of Wilmington. While Appellant was operating his own forklift, a coworker suffered a medical emergency that caused the coworker to lose control of the forklift he was operating.[14] The coworker's forklift began spinning around with its forks in the air, creating a hazardous situation.[15] Along with several other coworkers, Appellant attempted to intervene to stop the rogue forklift. Appellant testified that he intentionally bumped the rogue forklift with his own forklift in an attempt to stop it, but he was unable to do so.[16] Another coworker, identified as "Rock, " was eventually able to stop the rogue forklift; and Milton Downs, another forklift operator, removed the key.[17] After the incident, some of the workers involved were taken away by the security guard so that they could receive medical attention.[18] It is unclear whether Appellant was aware that the other workers had been taken away for medical treatment. Appellant's supervisor allegedly directed the remaining workers to "go back to work, " and Appellant testified that he did not want to be insubordinate by not returning to work.[19] Appellant testified that he was "feeling somewhat funny" after the incident, but he wanted to keep working.[20] He decided to wait and see how he felt later. Appellant testified that he did not think that work injuries needed to be reported immediately but that an employee could observe his condition and report the injury at a later date if his condition did not improve.[21] Appellant worked the rest of the day and then went home.[22]

Appellant testified that when he woke the next morning, the pain was still there and was getting worse. Appellant says he went into work and spoke to the manager around 6:45 a.m. as the manager was handing out the morning's assignments and explained that he was in pain.[23]Appellant says that the manager acknowledged Appellant's statement but gave Appellant an assignment anyway.[24] Appellant testified that he then went to another supervisor and told him that he would like to be examined because he had been in an accident.[25] Appellant was taken to the hospital by a security guard that Sunday morning. At the hospital, Appellant was examined and given pain medication.[26] Appellant testified that at the time he went to the hospital, he had pain in the neck, low back, and shoulders, and he started feeling pain where he had experienced it before due to his previous accidents in 2010.[27] Appellant reported that his back was worse than the other areas.[28]

Appellant followed up with Dr. Devotta on Monday, April 11, 2011.[29] Dr. Devotta examined Appellant, prescribed medication, and took Appellant out of work for two weeks.[30]Appellant saw Dr. Devotta every couple months through the fall of 2011 and had chiropractic treatment throughout the summer.[31] Appellant confirmed that his symptoms ...


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