According to Kelly Helton of Property Casualty 360, a New York resident, Michael Arena, who claimed to have been permanently disabled from a work-related injury, officially had his benefits revoked and has been “permanently disqualified from receiving wage replacement benefits” by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York in November 2023. The reasoning? Surveillance video proving the contrary.
Here is a timeline with the details of the case:
“Michael Arena suffered a work-related back injury in January 2020, which was confirmed by an MRI the next month. His initial treatment plan relied on medication and physical therapy, but his pain worsened, and he received two ‘lumbar interlaminar epidurals.’ From April to August, Arena was completely disabled.”
“His employer, Upstate Niagara Cooperative Inc., suspected Arena was fudging the details of his injuries and hired an insurance investigator. Video surveillance revealed Arena participating in activities that did not square up with his alleged total disability. He was seen digging in his garden, engaging in outdoor activities that required bending and kneeling at angles up to 90 degrees, and carrying a large case of beer in each hand, among other activities.”“Upstate Niagara brought the videos to the attention of a workers’ compensation judge and said Arena had made material misrepresentations to obtain better benefits in violation of state law. Though some of the activities were consistent with what medical professionals said Arena could do, many of them were well outside the balance of ‘good days and bad days’ that could have been expected for Arena’s recovery.”
“Arena claimed his work in the garden had been in support of his wife, who had performed nearly all of the physical labor. Regarding other observed activities, Arena said he had merely been demonstrating how to use certain tools, such as a post hole digger and could not recall whether he had used other lawn equipment. The workers’ compensation judge ruled the inconsistencies, though present, were not strong enough to constitute a violation and awarded Arena benefits through January 2021.”
“Upstate Niagara appealed to the Board, which looked at the videos and found ‘sufficient evidence to support’ Upstate Niagara’s claims that Arena had misrepresented his injuries. The Board issued two penalties against Arena: a mandatory penalty revoking Arena’s benefits, finding there was no compensable lost time from June 2020 to January 2021, and a second, ‘discretionary penalty permanently disqualifying [Arena] from receiving wage replacement benefits.’”
“Arena appealed to the courts. The court pointed to specific instances seen in the videos that belied Arena’s testimony: carrying bags of mulch, removing shrubs from his yard, and actually using the post hole digger he claimed to have only demonstrated. The court found that the Board’s decision, including the penalties imposed, were supported by ‘substantial evidence’ in the case record and affirmed the judgment against Arena.”
It’s quite difficult to refute video evidence, isn’t it? Surveillance is a NECESSITY!