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Powell v. OTAC, Inc.

Supreme Court of Delaware

December 4, 2019

STEVEN POWELL, Claimant-Below, Appellant,
v.
OTAC, INC., d/b/a HARDEE'S, Employer-Below, Appellee.

         Submitted October 16, 2019.

          Case Closed December 20, 2019.

Page 865

          Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware. C.A. No. K18A-06-001.

         COUNSEL:

          Walt F. Schmittinger, Esquire, Candace E. Holmes, Esquire, Schmittinger and Rodriguez, P.A., Dover, Delaware, for Appellant Steven Powell.

          Andrew M. Lukashunas, Esquire, Tybout, Redfearn & Pell, Wilmington, Delaware for Appellee OTAC, Inc., d/b/a Hardee's.

          Before SEITZ, Chief Justice, VALIHURA and TRAYNOR, Justices.

         OPINION

Page 866

         VALIHURA, Justice:

          This is an appeal of a March 5, 2019 decision by the Superior Court affirming a decision by the Delaware Industrial Accident Board (the " IAB" ) denying claimant-appellant Steven Powell's (" Powell" ) petition for workers' compensation benefits. In his petition, Powell alleged that he suffered a work injury on December 11, 2016 while employed by OTAC, Inc. d/b/a Hardee's (" Hardees" ). The IAB held a hearing regarding Powell's petition on June 5, 2018. The IAB heard testimony by deposition from a doctor on Powell's behalf and from a doctor on Hardees' behalf. It also heard live testimony from a Hardees General Manager and from Powell himself. After the hearing, the IAB denied Powell's petition, ruling that he had failed to establish that he injured his rotator cuff while working at Hardees. The IAB concluded that the testimony and evidence was " insufficient to support a finding that Claimant's injuries were causally related to his work for [Hardees]." [1] Specifically, the IAB noted that both Powell's " inability to report a specific day of injury" as well as his " failure to seek medical treatment immediately" after the alleged incident detracted from his credibility.[2] Further, it found that although " both medical experts agreed that [Powell's] treatment was reasonable for his rotator cuff tear, there was insufficient evidence that the rotator cuff tear occurred as the result of the alleged work accident." [3] The Superior Court affirmed the decision of the IAB.[4]

         Powell raises two issues on appeal. First, he asserts that the Board erred as a matter of law in denying his petition, and he claims that he did present sufficient

Page 867

evidence to demonstrate that his injuries occurred while working at Hardees. Second, he asserts that the Superior Court erred in affirming the IAB's decision and that it exceeded the scope of review by making findings of fact unsupported by the record below.

          For the reasons set forth below, we AFFIRM the decision of the Superior Court.

          I. RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

          A. Factual Background

          Hardees employed Powell as a back line cook for a time in 2016. His duties included cooking and handling boxes weighing approximately twenty pounds.

          On November 4, 2016, Powell fell off of a curb outside his sister's home and landed on his right shoulder. After he fell, Powell sought treatment at the emergency room and had an x-ray. Powell denied receiving any further treatment and ...


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