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Bank teller failed to prove carpal tunnel related to work

A bank teller seeking total disability after being diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists failed to prove that her job caused her injuries, a Pennsylvania judge ruled Friday in affirming both the decisions of a state workers compensation judge and the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board.

Elsa Olivo in 2016 filed a workers compensation claim after being diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome after eight years of working for M&T Bank Corp., where she testified she counted and sorted money 25% of the time — a task she attributed to causing her disability that required surgery, according to documents in Elsa Olivo v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board et. al, filed in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg.

Two examining doctors opined that Ms. Olivo, who sought total disability benefits, was able to return to work with no restrictions. A physician hired to perform an independent medical evaluation testified “that during her physical examination, Claimant magnified her symptoms, citing some facial grimacing. She said that when Claimant was distracted, her range of motion and raw data were better than when Claimant was actively tested,” documents state.

“Based on her evaluation, (the second doctor) determined that Claimant had previously suffered from bilateral (carpal tunnel syndrome), but she disagreed that the condition was caused by Claimant's work duties,” explaining that "for something to be deemed work-related carpal tunnel it would have to be something that involves a high force, (high) torque vibration situation . . . bank teller not being one of them,” documents state.

A workers comp judge rejected Ms. Olivo’s testimony “as neither credible nor persuasive to establish that she suffered a work-related injury that rendered her totally disabled from performing her work duties” finding her  testimony “to be inconsistent with the testimony of (two doctors) regarding her post-surgical work capacity as well as the resolution of her symptoms after the surgeries” who opined she “could return to her pre-injury work duties without restriction.”

The state court, petitioned for review of the judge and the board’s findings, affirmed on the grounds that Ms. Olivo failed to meet her burden of proof.

The employer’s attorney declined comment. The employers and other attorneys involved could not immediately be reached for comment.