Heard in the Court of Appeals February 18, 2015
North Carolina Industrial Commission, IC No. Y16731.
Hutchens Law Firm, by William L. Senter and Maggie S. Bennington, for the plaintiff-appellee.
Hedrick Gardner Kincheloe & Garofalo LLP, by M. Duane Jones and Ryan W. Keevan, for the defendant-appellants.
Judge STEPHENS and Judge
Appeal by Defendants from Opinion and Award entered
21 May 2014 by the North Carolina Industrial Commission.
Robert N. Hunter, Jr.,
Paul Fields (" Plaintiff" ) was injured at his place of employment on 24 May 2012. This injury resulted in significant pain and loss of physical capability. The Full Industrial Commission awarded Plaintiff total temporary disability (" TTD" ) compensation. H& E Equipment Services, LLC and Travelers (" Defendants" ) appeal, arguing that Plaintiff did not meet his burden to show that he is entitled to TTD compensation. Because Plaintiff failed to provide competent evidence through expert testimony of his inability to find any other work as a result of his work-related injury, we reverse the Opinion and Award.
I. Factual & Procedural History
Plaintiff was employed as a mechanic for Defendant H& E Equipment Services for over eleven years. He is a sixty-five year old man with a tenth-grade education and some computer skills. Plaintiff's job as a mechanic involved physical activities such as changing batteries, tires, brakes, and other types of equipment. He was regularly required to stoop and lift, sometimes in excess of forty pounds. Beginning in 2006, Plaintiff saw Dr. James E. Rice (" Dr. Rice" ) for pain in his back. These visits escalated in 2011, when Plaintiff saw Dr. Rice three times for back and leg pain, at which time Dr. Rice placed Plaintiff on a home exercise program and gave him prescriptions for pain medicine and muscle relaxers. In addition to the prescriptions and exercise regimen, Dr. Rice also placed Plaintiff under a work restriction of lifting no more than twenty-five pounds. Dr. Rice also acknowledged that Plaintiff's condition, likely a degenerative disc disease, was expected to worsen over time without regard to work-related activities.
On 24 May 2012, Plaintiff sustained a back injury at his place of employment while removing a forty-three-pound battery from a vehicle, in violation of Defendant's and Dr. Rice's lifting restrictions. Plaintiff felt a ...