On August 28, 2015, in the case of Rajpaul v. McDonalds Corp (A-4681-13T4), the Appellate Division reversed the Workers’ Compensation Judge’s order, which had dismissed Mr. Rajpaul’s claim for failure to file a workers’ compensation claim within the two year statute of limitations period. The facts of this case reveal that Mr. Rajpaul worked in maintenance for McDonalds Corporation from 1995 through 2005. Beginning in 1995, he began to experience pain in his shoulders, wrists and elbows. He was seen for shoulder pain at least four times over the years, and in 2001 he was diagnosed with bilateral bicipital tendonitis of the shoulders, which was resolved with treatment. During this time, he never filed a workers’ compensation claim for the tendonitis.
Over the next four years Mr. Rajpaul continued to do his regular job for McDonalds. In June 2005, he returned to the doctor seeking treatment for pain in his left shoulder. In November 2005, Mr. Rajpaul left McDonalds and began working elsewhere. In June 2006, he had a MRI of the left shoulder, was diagnosed with a left shoulder rotator cuff tear, and ultimately underwent surgery. He filed a workers’ compensation claim against McDonalds for his torn left shoulder rotator cuff. McDonalds moved to dismiss the claim arguing that it was barred by the two-year statute of limitations under N.J.S.A. 34:15-34.
The Workers’ Compensation Judge granted the Motion to Dismiss, finding that Mr. Rajpaul’s left shoulder complaints dated back to at least 2001 and he had not filed a claim within two years of the 2001 diagnosis.
Mr. Rajpaul and his attorney appealed the ruling, arguing that he was not aware that he had a torn left rotator cuff until 2006, and that the previous diagnosis of bicipital tendonitis of the shoulder was a different diagnosis than the current diagnosis of a torn rotator cuff.
McDonalds argued that there was a chronic progressive shoulder condition which the petitioner was aware was disabling as far back as 2001. The Appellate Court agreed with the Judge of Workers’ Compensation’s finding that the petitioner knew of his tendonitis as far back as 2001; however, they disagreed with the finding that the left shoulder torn rotator cuff diagnosis in 2006 was part of that same injury from 2001.
The Appellate Division stated that without expert medical testimony, there was not a sufficient basis for the Judge of Workers’ Compensation to find that Mr. Rajpaul’s claim for a torn rotator cuff in 2006 was based upon the same disability that he was first made aware of and received treatment for in 2001. The case was sent back to the Workers’ Compensation Court for further medical testimony on the issue to determine whether a torn rotator cuff was or was not part of the same diagnosis of bicipital tendonitis of the shoulder.
This case should serve as a reminder to injured workers—if you wait more than two years after a work related diagnosis to file a workers’ compensation claim, you might be too late. Don’t let this happen to you!
If you have any workers’ compensation questions, speak with experienced legal counsel immediately to discuss your rights.