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Young v. Hickory Bus. Furn – Case Brief Summary (North Carolina)

In Young v. Hickory Bus. Furn., 353 N.C. 227, 538 S.E.2d 912 (2000), the employee suffered back strain and received medical compensation from her employer. Id. at 228, 538 S.E.2d at 913-14.

Three years later, the employee was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and her treating physician believed that her condition was related to her earlier work injury.

The employee sought additional medical benefits, but the employer claimed that there was no medical evidence to demonstrate that the employee's fibromyalgia was related to her work injury. Id. at 229, 538 S.E.2d at 914.

The employee's physician stated in his deposition: "I think the employee does have fibromyalgia and I relate it to the accident primarily because . . . it was not there before and she developed it afterwards.

And that's the only piece of information that relates the two." Id. at 232, 538 S.E.2d at 916.

The Commission awarded the employee disability compensation. Id. at 229, 538 S.E.2d at 914.

The Supreme Court of North Carolina reversed the Commission's decision, finding that the physician's opinion on causation "was based entirely upon conjecture and speculation." Id. at 231, 538 S.E.2d at 915.

The Court instructed:

The maxim "post hoc, ergo propter hoc after this, therefore because of this," denotes "the fallacy of . . . confusing sequence with consequence," and assumes a false connection between causation and temporal sequence. As such, this Court has treated the maxim as inconclusive as to proximate cause. This Court has also held that "it is a settled principle that the law looks to the immediate and not the remote cause of damage. . . . In a case where the threshold question is the cause of a controversial medical condition, the maxim of "post hoc, ergo propter hoc," is not competent evidence of causation. Id. at 232, 538 S.E.2d at 916.