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Shawnee Management Corp. v. Hamilton

480 S.E.2d 773 (1997)

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Shawnee Management Corp. v. Hamilton

Virginia Court of Appeals

480 S.E.2d 773 (1997)

Facts

While employed by Shawnee Management Corporation (Shawnee) (defendant), Rhonda Hamilton (plaintiff) slipped on a wet floor and injured her back. The parties agreed to an award for temporary total-disability benefits in November 1991. In January 1993, Hamilton underwent surgery to repair her injuries and was released to return to work several months later with light restrictions. Shawnee sent Hamilton’s physician, Dr. Zoller, a job description for a cashier position that Shawnee intended to offer to Hamilton. Zoller indicated that Hamilton could do the job, but Hamilton turned it down, stating that Shawnee had not promised her enough hours to justify the long commute that would be required. In September 1993, Shawnee filed an application to suspend Hamilton’s benefits because Hamilton had refused suitable employment. In August 1994, while Shawnee’s application remained pending, Zoller referred Hamilton to Dr. John Kostuik for a second opinion. Kostuik recommended another surgery, and both doctors agreed that Hamilton could not undergo the procedure until she stopped smoking and lost some weight. Hamilton had quit smoking for about 18 months at the time of the first surgery but had started again. In January 1995, Zoller advised Shawnee’s insurer that he had changed his mind about Hamilton’s ability to return to work and believed that Hamilton should have been considered unable to work for the entire time since he had released her. Armed with that assessment, Hamilton filed a change-in-condition application, seeking temporary total-disability benefits retroactive to September 1993. The deputy commissioner considered Hamilton’s application and Shawnee’s, which was still pending, and determined that because Hamilton had not quit smoking, her benefits should be suspended until she complied with her doctors’ instructions and was able to have the surgery. Hamilton appealed, and the full commission reversed. Shawnee then appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Moon, C.J.)

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