Appellate Court Upholds Judge’s Refusal to Reimburse Injured Employee for Continued Opioid Prescription
Jun 11, 2020
Pennsauken, NJ (Law Firm Newswire) June 11, 2020 – An Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey affirmed a judge’s denial of a worker’s request for reimbursement for continued prescription opioid medication for a work-related back injury.
Samuel Martin, III, injured his back in May 2011 in a work-related car accident. In November 2014, Martin received a 15 percent partial disability award for his back injury. Martin’s employer, Newark Public Schools, refused to pay for his Percocet prescriptions after September 2017, and Martin filed a motion seeking reimbursement for the prescriptions. Martin contended the Percocet was necessary to relieve pain from the work injury.
Martin’s treating physician, an orthopedic surgeon, testified that he began treating Martin in May 2011 and released him in 2017. The doctor found that Martin reached maximum medical improvement and that Martin would never heal through continued use of pain medication. The doctor testified that six years of therapy or medication had not alleviated Martin’s pain. The only form of treatment to cure or relieve the effects of the work injury would be surgery.
Martin presented the testimony of an expert in the field of pain management. The expert conducted a one-time evaluation of Martin. The expert testified to a few positive physical findings and opined that it was reasonable for Martin to be on opioid medication on a long-term basis.
A workers’ compensation judge denied Martin’s motion seeking reimbursement for his Percocet prescriptions. The judge found that Martin failed to prove continued treatment with opioid medication would reduce his pain or permit him to function better. The judge gave more weight to the testimony of the treating physician who had treated Martin for six years than the expert who evaluated Martin on one occasion.
Under New Jersey workers’ compensation law, workers’ compensation covers treatment for an injured employee if medical evidence shows it is reasonably necessary to cure or relieve the effects of the employee’s work injury.
In Martin v. Newark Public Schools, a decision released on Sept. 18, 2019, the Appellate Division ruled the evidence supported the judge’s determination that further treatment with opioid medication would not cure or relieve Martin’s injury.
Suffer an injury on the job? Talk to a workers’ compensation lawyer at Petrillo and Goldberg at 856.249.9295.
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