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Commission needs to make express finding of when injury occurred

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//August 12, 2019

Commission needs to make express finding of when injury occurred

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//August 12, 2019

Although the Virginia Workers Compensation Commission concluded the claimant’s injury was compensable, it failed to identify when the injury specifically occurred, as required by the law. Because there appears to be sufficient evidence in the record to allow this finding, the court remanded the case to the commission to make the required factual finding.


On May 9, 2017, William Sclafani, a Charlottesville police officer, played the role of a suspect who needed to be restrained for a SWAT team training activity. During the all-day training, Sclafani was repeatedly handcuffed, thrown to and picked up off the ground while in handcuffs.

Sclafani stated in his deposition testimony that he advised his doctors that there was no immediate onset of significant pain. He testified that the pain did not really begin until the following day.

While Sclafani reported his injury to his sergeant, he did not seek treatment with Kristine Shannon, a nurse practitioner, until May 12, 2017. Sclafani ultimately sought treatment from Dr. William T. Grant, an orthopedist, who gave him a steroid injection and referred him to physical therapy.

Sclafani underwent surgery on his left shoulder on July 26, 2017. On Aug. 10, 2017, the orthopedist opined that Sclafani could resume light-duty work on Aug. 16, 2017. Sclafani’s light-duty status was continued on Sept. 7, 2017. On Sept. 28, 2017, Sclafani was released to recommence full duty work.

Sclafani filed a claim alleging injury by accident to his left shoulder and arm and seeking an award of medical benefits and temporary total disability benefits from July 21, 2017, to Aug. 16, 2017. Following a hearing, the deputy commissioner issued an opinion finding that Sclafani failed to prove his arm and shoulder injury was compensable. The full commission reversed the deputy commissioner’s denial of Sclafani’s claim.


The claimant bears the burden of establishing that an identifiable incident occurred at a reasonably definite time that resulted in an obvious sudden mechanical or structural change in his body that was causally connected to the incident.

While Sclafani was involved in an eight-hour training, he testified that he did not notice any problems during the four hours before lunch. However, at some point during the four post-lunch hours, he felt a “tweak” but no real pain. As he was driving home from the training, he felt pain in his left shoulder. At his deposition, Sclafani testified that his left shoulder pain started on the day of the training while driving home. He later testified that he believed his left shoulder injury occurred sometime after lunch on the day of the training.

It appears from the record that the commission assumed but failed to find that Sclafani’s testimony established an identifiable incident with sufficient temporal precision. The training spanned eight hours, with an interruption for lunch. The assumption that Sclafani sustained a non-cumulative injury during the last four hours of training was justified based on Sclafani’s own testimony. However, there was no specific finding to this effect. Therefore, we remand this case for the commission to make a factual finding consistent with this opinion as to whether Sclafani’s injury occurred during the four post-lunch hours of the training.

Reversed and remanded.

City of Charlottesville v. Sclafani, Record No. 1999-18-3, July 23, 2019. CAV (Chafin) from Workers’ Compensation Commission. Brian J. McNamara for Appellant, Bradford M. Young for Appellee. VLW No. 019-7-134, 9 pp.

VLW 019-7-134

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