Virginia Lawyers Weekly is a statewide newspaper for lawyers. In the fall of 2020, this blog discussed a Virginia Lawyers Weekly story regarding a HammondTownsend case styled City of Charlottesville v. Sclafani. HammondTownsend’s blog post described the case as “a good study to show how dedicated, persistent lawyers work for you throughout several layers of appeals.” Subsequent developments underscore this statement.
The claimant, a police officer, played the “take-down” role in a full day of arrest training for fellow police officers. At the end of the day, he found that he could not lift his arm level with his shoulder or move his arm above his head. Medical examination showed that his shoulder had several injuries, and he subsequently had surgery to repair the injuries.
The evidence showed that the claimant was injured at some point in the afternoon. He also testified that during the last arrest scenario he was “picked up a little weird” and that he “felt some discomfort.”
HammondTownsend filed a workers’ compensation claim on the claimant’s behalf. The law at the time allowed an award if an injury stemmed from an “identifiable incident” that spanned up to four hours. It was reasonable to infer from the evidence that the claimant’s injury occurred during the four hours of training in the afternoon. Still, the deputy commissioner who heard the case denied the claim.
Following a proceeding before a deputy commissioner, either party has the right to appeal to the Commission. HammondTownsend filed such an appeal. Before the Commission, HammondTownsend argued for an award based on injury arising during the four-hour period described above. Because the law also allows an award if injury occurs due to a “sudden precipitating event,” HammondTownsend argued in the alternative that the claimant’s testimony regarding the last scenario showed such an event.
The Commission reversed the deputy commissioner, finding that the claimant had been injured in an identifiable incident. The Commission made no finding regarding whether the claimant had shown injury from a sudden precipitating event.
The claimant’s injury by accident occurred in May 2017. The deputy commissioner ruled against him in July 2018. The Commission reversed the deputy commissioner and granted an award in November 2018. The employer’s subsequent appeal to the Court of Appeals of Virginia commenced an odyssey of litigation over whether the claimant had been injured during the four-hour period. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded in July 2019; on remand, the Commission reaffirmed the award to the claimant in October 2019; and the Court of Appeals affirmed the Commission’s decision in May 2020.
Undeterred, the employer filed a petition for appeal with the Supreme Court of Virginia. The Supreme Court granted an appeal. After the parties filed briefs and presented oral argument, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in August 2021. The Supreme Court announced new principles that significantly limit a claimant’s ability to gain an award based on an identifiable incident spanning a long period of time. The high court found that the claimant was not entitled to an award under these new principles.
Despite the new principles discussed above, the Supreme Court affirmed the award for the claimant. It found that he had proved a sudden precipitating event via his testimony regarding the last scenario.
The employer still would not give up. It filed a petition for rehearing, arguing that the claimant’s testimony did not support the Supreme Court’s finding of a sudden precipitating event. The Supreme Court denied the petition on November 22, 2021.
In HammondTownsend’s 2020 blog post, the firm noted that its struggle on the claimant’s behalf has encompassed a hearing before the deputy commissioner (one appearance), the full Commission (two appearances), the Court of Appeals (two appearances), and the Supreme Court (one appearance). Now, after four years of effort by HammondTownsend for the claimant, the case is finally concluded with the preservation of the award to the claimant.
HammondTownsend does not dabble in workers’ compensation law. We are specialists in the field of workers’ compensation, and we are ready, willing, and able to handle proceedings for a workers’ compensation claim at all judicial levels.
If you want workers’ compensation lawyers in Virginia who will fight for you, contact HammondTownsend today for a free workers’ compensation consultation. We are here for you every step of the way in a workers’ compensation claim, from filing claims to handling hearings and appeals, all to ensure you receive every benefit you’re entitled to.