Duarte v. CA. State Teachers’ Ret. Sys.: Workers’ Compensation Disputes

Duarte v. CA. State Teachers’ Ret. Sys., a case from the Court of Appeal for California, First Division, involved claimant who was a teacher for the state’s unified school district. He worked as a teacher there from 1993 to 1995. Claimant took personal leave in 1995 that was authorized but unpaid and then took educational leave until 1999. During his leave, claimant worked for one season as a firefighter for the state forestry department. He also completed law school, but, after failing to pass the state bar exam, began working as a paralegal.

doodled-desks-2-1193228-m.jpgIn 2003, claimant returned to the school system, and his second day back on the job, two students he refused to let into the classroom due their disruptive behavior assaulted him. His specific claim was that one student injured his shoulder when he pushed claimant into the doorframe to get past him. He also alleged one student continued to the threaten him and told claimant “[he] was going to put a put a cap in his ass.” The other students repeatedly mocked claimant for the remainder of the day, making teaching virtually impossible. Claimant never returned to teach at the school.

The following year, his psychologist diagnosed claimant with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and said he was totally disabled with respect to working as a teacher. His diagnosis said claimant’s anxiety over the incident would be too high to function at a school. In 2007, this doctor still held the opinion that he could not work as a teacher and did not see any likelihood of his condition improving. It should be noted she had not seen patient for approximately 18 months before giving this opinion. However, another mental health professional claimant had been seeing for over a year concurred with the diagnosis that claimant was unfit to teach.

In 2004, claimant had filed a claim for workers’ compensation, and four doctors evaluated him. One doctor, an orthopedist, concluded he had disability and was unable to lift or hold heavy objects with his left arm due to shoulder injury. He opined claimant could not do any work above shoulder height. This doctor found claimant could probably work as a teacher but not a firefighter. Another orthopedic surgeon and qualified medical examiner (QME) concurred with this diagnosis. This doctor concluded claimant suffered a temporary psychiatric disability, but the anxiety related to the assault had largely subsided. However, he did also indicate claimant may experience a re-occurrence in PTSD if he worked as a teacher again. Because he was a member of teacher’s disability with credit for the two years he worked, he was required to attempt to negotiate a settlement with the state. The judge dismissed the claim, and an appeal was filed. On appeal, the court held this was disputed on the merits, and he could refile a claim after dealing with the state injury fund. As our Boston disability lawyers can explain, a case being dismissed with a right to refile is known as being dismissed without prejudice.

Meanwhile, an evaluating psychologist noted claimant had been treated for stress conditions in the 1990s and also opined claimants PTSD symptoms may be exaggerated.

If you are injured on the job in Massachusetts, call Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your workers’ compensation claim: (617) 777-7777.

More Blog Entries:
Man Electrocuted in Construction Site Accident, August 25, 2014, Boston Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog

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