Pre-existing Perspective: New York Court Rules Against Reimbursing Employer

By Max Mihelich

Feb. 11, 2013

An injured worker’s diabetes and obesity are not pre-existing conditions that would allow New York’s Special Disability Fund to reimburse her employer for workers’ compensation benefits, a New York appellate court ruled on Jan. 31.

The self-insured Schenectady Community Action Program Inc. sought reimbursement from the Special Disability Fund for JoAnn LaDuke’s workers’ compensation benefits. LaDuke was an employee of the program for nearly 20 years when she sustained back and shoulder injuries while assisting students exiting a bus in May 2002, according to court records.

New York’s disability fund argued it was not liable for LaDuke’s benefits, as the New York State Worker’s Compensation Board had initially determined. The New York appellate court reversed the compensation board’s decision.

The court ruled LaDuke’s diabetes and obesity did not hinder her ability to perform her job.

The “claimant testified that, although she had suffered from diabetes for over 20 years, it was controlled through oral medication and had never affected her ability to perform the job,” according to the court’s ruling.

As for her obesity, LaDuke testified that she had “always been heavy” and it never proved a hindrance to her job performance. “In any event, claimant testified that she had never been diagnosed with a medial condition that caused her obesity, and there is no instance in which obesity, lacking a medical basis that would ensure permanency, has been found to be a pre-existing condition,” the court ruled.

Max Mihelich is Workforce’s editorial intern. Comment below or email

Max Mihelich is a writer in the Chicago area.

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