Workers' Comp Case Summary: Singletary vs Wawa

Geraldine Singletary worked as a Wawa employee from at least 1987 to 2007. In this time she suffered injuries in the workplace that, on two different occasions, necessitated medical treatment, and later became degenerative conditions. The first injury that required surgery occurred in September of 1991, when Singletary slipped while at work. Her resulting injury, a herniated C5-6 disk in her back, required surgery that occurred in 1996. Wawa’s health insurance provider, AIG, agreed to pay 30% of her permanent partial disability total for her cervical spine injury. Her second slip happened on December 12, 2001. This fall led to an intervertebral disk fusion of C5-6, a right focal disk herniation of C4-5, and a central disk herniation of C6-7. In this instance she received physical therapy and had cervical injections that lasted until May 21, 2002. In this case, the Division of Workers’ Compensation awarded Singletary 45% of her permanent partial total disability, which was to be paid by AIG. Furthermore, the medical expenses in both cases were covered by AIG.

While these injuries and payments were deemed a matter of fact by the judge of compensation, the appellate court was called on to determine payment of degenerative injuries that flared in 2006. On January 1st, 2002, Wawa became self-insured, meaning they were responsible for payment of worker’s compensation for injuries occurring after that date. Singletary filed a claim against Wawa on October 19th, 2006 seeking compensation for an upcoming surgery necessitated because of the physical nature of her work, which exasperated the previous back problems. Wawa disagreed, arguing that this set of back problems was merely an extension of the original back problems. Thus, Wawa submitted that AIG was responsible for continuing the coverage since this new surgery came from the degenerative nature of her original injuries.

Wawa and AIG commissioned a Dr. Delasotta to examine Singletary’s back. His diagnosis was that Singletary unquestionably needed surgery. He testified that this new surgery was directly related to her work and would not have happened had she work a sedentary job. Singletary outlined her responsibilities at work, stating that those included running the cash register, stocking the shelves, doing inventory, making deposits, preparing orders, waiting on customers, and working in the deli. She testified further that many of her job responsibilities caused pain to her head, neck, arm, and shoulder, in particular stocking the shelves with milk, bagging heavy items, reaching overhead to stock the cigarette shelves or to retrieve cigarettes for customers, operating the meat slicer, and running the trash compactor.

She went on to state that from 2003 until 2006 she had growing pain in the base of her neck and suffered from daily headaches. The court ruled that it was a medical fact that her work made her back worse and ordered Wawa, rather than AIG, to pay Workers Compensation for Singletary’s 2007 surgery as her condition worsened in the time Wawa was self insured.