Jennifer Hernandez v. Hackensack Board of Education

Clients: Inservco/Hoboken Board of Education

Trial and brief attorney: Nicholas A. Dibble, Esq.

Jennifer Hernandez suffered a compensable ankle injury and received a month of authorized ankle treatment.  Thereafter she went to the authorized treating orthopedist and complained of right hip pain.  When right hip treatment was denied the petitioner filed a motion for medical and temporary benefits.  Respondent sent petitioner for a need for treatment evaluation with Dr. Wayne Colizza who diagnosed the petitioner with a torn labrum, but did not causally relate the need for treatment to the compensable work accident.  Instead, Dr. Colizza opined that a subsequent gym injury was the more likely cause of the petitioner’s need for right hip treatment.

Trial ensued in this matter before the Honorable John Gavejian in Hackensack.  Following the petitioner’s testimony, respondent offered the testimony of the nurse case manager to corroborate the findings of Dr. Colizza and the dearth of hip complaints in the authorized medical treatment records.   The nurse case manager testified to receiving a call from the petitioner several weeks after the accident.  During that conversation the petitioner told the nurse she was recently at the gym doing sit ups when she suddenly felt intense pain in her hip as she attempted to stand up from the floor.

Following the testimony of the nurse case manager, the petitioner offered the testimony of Dr. Fred Lee.  Dr. Lee testified that the petitioner initially injured her hip during the work accident and her symptoms subsequently progressed in the ensuing months.  He felt the petitioner would likely need surgery on the right hip.  Trial then continued with the testimony of respondent’s expert, Dr. Wayne Colizza, a board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedist.  Dr. Colizza testified that the subsequent gym incident was the more likely cause of the petitioner’s condition.  Dr. Colizza felt that given the petitioner’s current complaints and her diagnosis of a torn hip labrum, if she had injured her hip in the original accident, the petitioner would have had immediate hip complaints.  Instead, there was no mention of the hip in any of the authorized treating records until after the subsequent gym accident. Dr. Colizza diagnosed the petitioner with a torn labrum and causally related the need for treatment to the subsequent accident that occurred at the gym while the petitioner was getting up off the floor from doing abdominal exercises.

After reviewing trial briefs from both sides Judge Gavejain dismissed the Motion for Medical and Temporary Benefits and found the petitioner was entitled to no treatment relative to her right hip.