Hopkins v. Verso Paper & International Paper
October 29, 2019
Restoration of Benefits Paper Mill Knee Work Restrictions Partial Incapacity
Summary from the Troubh Heisler Attorneys
The Workers’ Compensation Board Appellate Division affirmed Judge Hirtle’s decision granting Mr. Hopkins’ petition for restoration of benefits.
Mr. Hopkins worked at the paper mill for 37 years, during which time he injured both knees, each of which required surgery. The mill accommodated his restrictions, allowing him to work easier jobs and to get help from coworkers, and Sedgwick paid him partial benefits at varying rates. The mill closed in 2014, laying off most employees including Mr. Hopkins, but he quickly found a new job in marine sales. A few months later, he quit his new job, and the mill filed a petition for review, which the Board granted in October 2015, discontinuing his incapacity benefits based on his unreasonably refusing work.
Two months later Mr. Hopkins found a job with the Maine DOT, but it still left him with a wage loss. He filed a Petition for Restoration, claiming a change in economic circumstances. The mill submitted a labor market survey showing a stable labor market but no higher paying jobs, due to the general economic conditions in the region. Judge Hirtle found that Mr. Hopkins had carried his burden of proof that his reduced earnings were causally related to his work injuries and granted his petition, putting him on fixed rate partial incapacity benefits.
Verso/International appealed citing Coty and arguing that Mr. Hopkins' reduced earnings were the result of the general economic conditions in the area. Mr. Hopkins cited Mailman, arguing that his reduced earnings were the result of his injury, as he remained on work restrictions, and that when he was laid off he was not performing his regular job and was receiving partial benefits. Judge Hirtle found Mailman more applicable than Coty, and the Appellate Division found no error in his doing so.