On October 27, 2004, Margaret Adams—an employee of Target Stores, Inc. since 1998—suffered an injury on the job. Ms. Adams was a warehouse team leader, which meant that she regularly stocked shelves and climbed ladders while lifting 50-pound packages. On that day, she stepped off the ladder, missed several rungs, and immediately suffered a broken bone in her foot.
The injury, however, did not end there. Ms. Adams wound up suffering from a number of chronic pain conditions, including Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and Allodynia, which an expert at trial described as “a hypersensitivity to touch that results in excruciating pain from even slight touch or contact.”
Ms. Adams filed a claim with the Division of Workers’ Compensation about six months after the injury. And, as a result, she received temporary disability payments.
However, unfortunately, Ms. Adams disability ended up not being temporary. She was unable to return to work at all. Eventually, a judge found her permanently and totally disabled. And, on February 1, 2006, a court deemed her unemployable. Subsequently, Ms. Adams applied for Social Security Disability benefits retroactive to the date of the accident. But the benefits were reduced by the temporary disability payments already distributed.
Still, Target sought reimbursement from Ms. Adams. Essentially, the company argued that—because Ms. Adams was actually permanently disabled starting on the date of the injury—the temporary disability benefits should be returned.
But a New Jersey appellate court, in Adams v. Target Stores, Inc. felt differently:
“Target cannot now look in hindsight and state that Adams was always permanently disabled and should therefore not have received temporary disability payments.”
At the moment the temporary disability benefits were given, they were entirely appropriate. It did not matter that, retroactively, Ms. Adams was permanently disabled all along.
For the text of the case, see http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/opinions/a4146-11.pdf.