Sergeant Entitled To Job-Related Benefits For Recurrence Of Back Injury 16 Years After Original Incident

In 1990, a sergeant for the City of Brockton, Massachusetts Police Department injured his back while breaking up a fight in a bar. At various times over the subsequent ten years, the sergeant aggravated the injury in different ways. All of the sergeant’s absences from work over this ten-year period of time were treated as job-related injuries.

In 2001, a physician concluded that the sergeant had reached the “medical end” and that his condition was “resolved.” On November 28, 2006, the sergeant’s back “popped out” when he rose out of a chair to read a report. When the County denied the sergeant’s claim for job-related injury benefits, the Brockton Police Supervisors’ Union, representing the sergeant, challenged the denial in arbitration.

An arbitrator upheld the grievance. The Arbitrator found a pattern of similarity in the aggravations of the original injury between 1990 and 2000 and the 2006 injury. The Arbitrator was unconvinced by the City’s reliance on the 2001 medical report, noting that the report recognized the potential for the sergeant to reinjure himself, and recommended an “aggressive functional restoration program so as to minimize re-injury.” Since the County was unable to rebut the sergeant’s testimony as to how the 2006 injury occurred, the Arbitrator concluded that the award of job-related injury benefits was appropriate.

City of Brockton, Massachusetts, 39 LAIG 6701 (Litton, 2009).

This article appears in the June 2009 issue