HOWARD L. HARRIS, Appellant/Claimant-Below,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Appellee/Employer-Below.
Submitted: July 23, 2019
Appeal from the Industrial Accident Board AFFIRMED
HONORABLE ANDREA L. ROCANELLI JUDGE
an appeal from a decision of the Industrial Accident Board
("IAB") denying a petition to determine
compensation due on the grounds that the claimant failed to
prove that his injuries were the result of a work-related
accident. Upon consideration of the facts, arguments, and
legal authorities set forth by the parties; statutory and
decisional law; and the entire record in this case, the Court
hereby finds as follows:
Claimant-Appellant, Howard L. Harris ("Claimant")
is employed by the State of Delaware ("Employer")
at the Port of Wilmington.
Claimant sought workers' compensation benefits for
injuries he sustained on February 23, 2018.
Claimant originally reported that Claimant was injured when
he was assaulted by co-workers at the end of the workday on
February 23, 2018. Later, Claimant reported that Claimant was
injured during the workday on February 23, 2018 when the
forklift Claimant was operating was picked up into the air by
a crane and then dropped several feet to the ground.
Employer disputes that the alleged crane accident occurred.
In the alternative, Employer maintains that if Claimant was
injured, then he was injured in an altercation with
co-workers and not in a work-related accident.
IAB conducted a hearing on November 14, 2018. Employer
presented four employees as witnesses, each of whom testified
no crane accident took place on February 23, 2018. Claimant
testified on his own behalf, explaining that he simply forgot
to mention the crane accident until two months after the
incident. Claimant presented the testimony of his treating
physician who testified that Claimant's injuries could
have been caused by either the alleged crane accident or by
an altercation. Employer's medical expert testified that
there was no objective evidence that Claimant sustained any
injury consistent with being dropped several feet by a crane
while seated in a forklift.
Order dated February 26, 2019, the IAB denied Claimant's
Petition ("IAB Decision"). Based on credibility
findings, the IAB ruled that there was insufficient evidence
to establish that the alleged crane accident actually
Claimant appeals from the IAB Decision denying Claimant's
Petition. Employer opposes Claimant's appeal.
considering an appeal from an IAB decision, this Court's
role is limited to determining whether the IAB's
conclusions are supported by substantial evidence and are
free from legal error. Substantial evidence is "such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion."This Court reviews
the IAB's legal determinations de
novo. Absent errors of law, however, the
standard of appellate review of the IAB's decision is
abuse of discretion. This Court "does not sit as a trier
of fact with authority to weigh the evidence, determine
questions of credibility, and make its own factual findings
and conclusions." The Court must give deference to "the
experience and specialized competence of the [IAB] and must
take into account the purposes of the Worker's
record evidence supports the IAB's
findings. The IAB made permissible credibility
determinations in order to reconcile competing medical
theories of causation and inconsistencies in the
record. It is not the duty of this Court to weigh
the evidence or make credibility determinations in the
context of an administrative appeal. Rather, "[t]he function
of reconciling inconsistent testimony or determining
credibility is exclusively reserved for the
This Court is satisfied that there is sufficient record
evidence to support the IAB's factual conclusions and
that the IAB Decision is free from legal ...