North Carolina Appellate Court Rules Employer Must Pay Housing Expenses of Paralyzed Worker

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In a major victory for injured workers across North Carolina, the state’s Court of Appeals recently upheld an opinion from the N.C. Industrial Commission that an employer must pay for the adaptive housing expenses of a worker who was paralyzed in a workplace accident. Attorney Andrea Fowler of Hyland, Padilla, & Fowler PLLC represented Luis Rodriguez, the injured worker, in the case against his former employer, Mabe Steel Co., and Bridgefield Casualty Insurance Co. We are hopeful that this case result will help him rest without having to worry about his housing expenses.

Details of the Accident & Injuries

Luis was working when a steel beam struck his head, resulting in a paralyzing spinal cord injury. Doctors applauded Luis for his progress in physical therapy but ultimately determined that he would need Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant housing for his uncurable lower-body paralysis. He is paraplegic today and requires adaptive housing features, such as wheelchair access points and support bars. However, he currently lives in a wheelchair-accessible hotel room until accessible long-term housing can be secured.

Medical and rehabilitation therapy professionals who helped Luis after being paralyzed agreed and even testified that he would need different living arrangements. A two-bedroom apartment would be ideal, but a smaller and modified home could also suffice. It was also concluded that he would need transportation accommodations.

Details of the Case & Appeal

Previously, Luis had been paying $400 in monthly rent and sometimes received a daily stipend for work-related travel expenses. The case became complicated when Mabe Steel and Bridgefield questioned what parties should be responsible for Luis’s housing expenses when considering the stipends that he previously received. The Commission had said that both companies were “responsible for the cost difference” between his typical housing costs and the cost of furnishing “ADA-complaint” housing.

The case would be moved to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. With renewed tenacity, Attorney Fowler continued to represent the rights of Mr. Rodriguez. After further review of the case and arguments from both sides, it was decided that the Commission made no fault in its opinion, so the employer should provide the costs to update his housing situation to accommodate his work-related disability needs.

If you’d like to know more about this case handled by Attorney Fowler, you can click here to view a full article from the Winston-Salem Journal. If you need our law firm on your side for a workplace injury case, please contact us online or call (919) 891-8361 to arrange a no-cost case evaluation. Thank you.

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