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Newell-Brinkley v. Walton

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

January 16, 2014

Sinobia NEWELL-BRINKLEY, Appellant,
v.
Diana Haines WALTON, et al., Appellees.

Submitted Dec. 5, 2012.

Page 54

Jonathan L. Gould, Washington, DC, was on the brief for appellant.

Irvin B. Nathan, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, Donna M. Murasky, Deputy Solicitor General, and Richard S. Love, Senior Assistant Attorney General, were on the brief for appellee.

Page 55

Before BECKWITH and McLEESE, Associate Judges, and NEBEKER, Senior Judge.

McLEESE, Associate Judge.

Officer Newell-Brinkley of the Metropolitan Police Department (" MPD" ) injured her back while working. As a result, MPD permitted her to take sick leave that was not charged against her leave balance (" non-chargeable sick leave" ). Before Officer Newell-Brinkley returned to work full time from her on-the-job injury, MPD began to charge her sick leave against her leave balance, because her blood pressure was high and MPD concluded that her blood-pressure problem was not work-related. Officer Newell-Brinkley challenged MPD's decision, seeking both reimbursement for previously charged sick leave and additional non-chargeable sick leave going forward. After an adverse determination by MPD, she filed a petition for review in the Superior Court. That petition was denied, and she appealed.[1] We remand to the Superior Court with directions to remand to MPD.

I.

The following facts are undisputed. Officer Newell-Brinkley sustained an on-the-job injury to her back in September 2009. She was treated for the injury at the Police and Fire Clinic. During this treatment, clinic doctors noted that Officer Newell-Brinkley had high blood-pressure readings and asked her to consult her private doctor about the issue. In February 2010, after a clinic doctor determined that Officer Newell-Brinkley's back pain was improving, Officer Newell-Brinkley was placed on half-time, limited duty. Five days later, she reported experiencing pain at work, and her supervisor sent her to the Police and Fire Clinic. At the clinic, Officer Newell-Brinkley's blood-pressure reading was very high. The clinic doctor placed Officer Newell-Brinkley on full-time sick leave until her blood-pressure issue was addressed. After that, MPD began charging Officer Newell-Brinkley for sick leave.

The parties dispute the cause of the high blood-pressure readings. Officer Newell-Brinkley contends that the high blood-pressure readings were caused by a combination of her back pain, medications she took for the pain, and stress arising from the pain. MPD asserts that Officer-Newell Brinkley's high blood-pressure readings were not caused by her back injury.

When she discovered that she was being charged for sick leave, Officer Newell-Brinkley filed a supplemental worker's compensation claim. The Director of MPD's Medical Services Branch denied that claim, concluding that although Officer Newell-Brinkley's high blood-pressure readings were caused by the back injury, Officer Newell-Brinkley nevertheless was not entitled to non-chargeable sick leave, because she had not been diagnosed with

Page 56

" the disease ‘ High Blood Pressure.’ " Officer Newell-Brinkley then appealed to the MPD Medical Claims Appeals Hearing Branch, which concluded that Officer Newell-Brinkley had not proven that there was a causal relationship between the high blood-pressure readings and her back injury. The Hearing Officer also concluded that Officer Newell-Brinkley was not entitled to additional non-chargeable sick leave for her claimed back pain.

The Superior Court denied Officer Newell-Brinkley's petition for review of MPD's decision, finding that Officer Newell-Brinkley was not entitled to non-chargeable sick leave for her high blood pressure, because she did not make out a prima facie case that her on-the-job back injury had caused her high blood pressure and because substantial evidence supported MPD's conclusion that there was no causal relationship between her back injury and her high blood pressure. The Superior Court also found that Officer ...


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