Friday, September 15, 2006

Disfigurement Is To Be Viewed Without Prosthesis -- WCJ Abused Discretion in Making No Award

In P. Agnello v. WCAB (Owens-Illinois), the claimant lost three lower teeth as a result of a work injury. The WCJ observed her on two occasions and stated he could not see a difference in her appearance with her prosthesis out. He denied the Claimant’s petition for disfigurement benefits and the Board affirmed.

The Court noted the Board affirmed on the basis that the Claimant has a prosthesis, which is irrelevant to the disfigurement analysis. The disfigurement is to be viewed without the prosthesis. "Although Gardiner did not specifically hold that dentures should not be considered when determining whether there was a disfigurement, we now do so because they do not resolve the disfigurement, only mask it."

The Court held the absence of the teeth had to make some difference, and the WCJ abused his discretion in denying an award. The Court reversed the Board and remanded the case to the WCJ to make an award.

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