Credibility

SEE ALSO Proof: Conflicting Evidence

MONTANA SUPREME COURT DECISIONS
Harrison v. Liberty Northwest Inc. Corp. [04/01/08] 2008 MT 102 As for witnesses who testify in person at trial, the Montana Supreme Court defers to the Workers’ Compensation Court’s findings concerning credibility and the weight to be accorded to testimony. It is the WCC’s job to resolve inconsistencies in a witness’s testimony. Ultimately, because an assessment of testimony is best made upon observation of the witness’s demeanor and consideration of other intangibles that are only evident during live testimony, the Supreme Court will not substitute its judgment for the WCC’s judgment regarding credibility and the weight accorded to live witness testimony. Conversely, the Supreme Court is in as good a position as the WCC to assess testimony presented at trial by way of deposition, and conducts de novo review of deposition testimony. This deposition testimony must then be considered in the context of the other relevant evidence in order to properly assess the factual findings at issue.
Heth v. Montana State Fund [05/05/09] 2009 MT 149 It is the function of the Workers’ Compensation Court as finder of fact to discount or grant greater weight to testimony based on the credibility of the witness.
Gamble v. Sears, 2007 MT 131, 337 Mont. 354, 160 P.2d 537 As for witnesses who testify in person at trial, the court defers to the WCC’s findings concerning credibility and the weight to be accorded to this testimony. However, since the court is in as good a position as the WCC to assess testimony presented at trial by way of deposition, the court conducts de novo review of deposition testimony.
 
MONTANA WORKERS' COMPENSATION COURT DECISONS

Griffin v. Liberty Northwest Ins. Corp. [04/29/13] 2013 MTWCC 11 The Court found the claimant not to be a credible witness where he failed to answer questions in a straightforward manner, misrepresented a crucial date until it became clear that indisputable records would demonstrate otherwise, and claimed that he had personally paid for a medical procedure which had in fact been paid for by another insurer.  In finding the claimant non-credible, the Court further noted that his testimony regarding a previous settlement agreement was “contradictory and wholly incredible” in that his alleged lack of understanding as to the consequences of settling his claim was incredible in light of his later actions regarding two other settlements.

DeLong v. Montana State Fund [01/12/12] 2012 MTWCC 3 Although the employer denied knowing about Petitioner’s work-related injury within thirty days of the accident, his deposition testimony contradicts the Petitioner and two co-workers who testified credibly that the employer knew of the accident and injury shortly after it occurred.  It is implausible that the employer was the only person in a small shop who did not know that Petitioner injured himself lifting a motor.  Section 39-71-603, MCA, is satisfied, as the employer had actual knowledge equivalent to notice of the time, place, and nature of the accident and injury within the 30-day statute of limitations.

Hopkins v. Uninsured Employers' Fund [05/04/10] 2010 MTWCC 9 The Court found the alleged employer’s testimony that he did not have any employees at the bear park incredible where Petitioner’s  and another worker’s testimony regarding cash payments was corroborated by one of the worker’s copious and contemporaneous notes about the cash he received, the alleged employer testified he was paying a worker who was formerly his attorney for outstanding legal bills at a rate of $80 to $140 per day, and the alleged employer testified he gave Petitioner money on multiple occasions “out of my heart” coincidentally while Petitioner was performing “favors.”
Bagley v. Montana State Fund [08/18/09] 2009 MTWCC 29 Credibility. The Court did not find Petitioner credible where the evidence demonstrated, among other findings, that: he mislead his employer that he was receiving vocational help at a learning center when he was not attending the center; he claimed medications affected his abilities when the medical evidence demonstrated he was no longer taking the medications; he wrote several pages of notes with his right hand while testifying that it was “impossible” for him to write with his right hand at all; he informed his counsel that his employer did not offer to make a transcriber available to him when his employer had done so in writing.
Bowler v. Independent Contractor Central Unit [08/14/08] 2008 MTWCC 42 Holm testified that Petitioner rented a paint sprayer from Eastgate Rental for a church painting job Holm performed while working for Petitioner. Petitioner testified that Holm owned a paint sprayer. Petitioner further testified that he helped Holm retrieve this sprayer from a pawn shop on numerous occasions. When questioned as to the name of the pawn shop from which the paint sprayer was retrieved, Petitioner initially testified that he could not recall. Upon further questioning from the Court, Petitioner testified that the paint sprayer was retrieved from various pawn shops, but usually from the one near Hoagieville on Broadway which Petitioner could not name. I do not find Petitioner’s testimony regarding this subject to be credible. Holm specifically identified both the rental store from which the paint sprayer was rented and the specific job for which it was rented. Conversely, Petitioner testified that Holm’s sprayer was retrieved from various pawn shops on numerous occasions, none of which he could name.
Hanson v. UEF [06/25/08] 2008 MTWCC 32 Where the only evidence presented to the Court that a claimant sustained an injury while working for a construction company is a claimant’s own testimony and the Court did not find the claimant to be a credible witness and did not find Petitioner’s version of events to be credible, Petitioner failed to sustain his burden of proof.
Iron v. Montana State Fund [04/10/08] 2008 MTWCC 15 Petitioner’s “evolving story,” as demonstrated by the record in this case, regarding: whether he lost consciousness after his industrial accident; what occurred during and after his IME; and the circumstances surrounding his termination from his time-of-injury employment, lead the Court to find Petitioner without credibility.
Iron v. Montana State Fund [04/10/08] 2008 MTWCC 15 While in other situations the Court would be hesitant to impute stretching the truth on a job application to a claimant’s honesty regarding an industrial accident, in the case at hand, the overwhelming evidence demonstrated that Petitioner misrepresented his industrial injury, his work qualifications, and the circumstances surrounding his termination from his time-of-injury job. These facts, along with medical evidence which strongly suggests Petitioner exaggerated or concocted his symptoms, convinced the Court that Petitioner is a wholly incredible witness.
Barnea v. Ace American [12/21/08] 2007 MTWCC 58 Petitioner’s treating physician did not testify, but asserted by letter that Petitioner’s neck pain, while absent from Petitioner’s initial post-accident medical records, existed from the time of the industrial accident. While the Court cannot assess the doctor’s credibility since he did not testify, Respondent urges the Court to doubt the veracity of the doctor’s assertion, although it has given the Court no reason to do so.
Feuerherm v. Liberty Northwest Insurance [12/04/07] 2007 MTWCC 50 Where the Court found Petitioner to otherwise be a credible witness and where her explanation of tripping and hitting a doorway differed from the exam note of a doctor who did not testify and who was never questioned as to whether he possibly confused the tripping incident with Petitioner’s industrial accident, and where a second doctor testified that his description of Petitioner’s tripping incident was not recorded by him but by another doctor who also did not testify, the Court finds Petitioner’s explanation of the tripping incident to be credible.
Healy v. Liberty Northwest [10/23/07] 2007 MTWCC 43 Where the claimant and an examining doctor disagreed as to how long a medical appointment lasted, they substantially agreed on what occurred during the appointment. Therefore, the discrepancy in duration does not point to a lack of credibility on the part of either party.
Somerville v. MACo Workers' Compensation Trust [06/11/07] 2007 MTWCC 20 Where the testimony of witnesses for both parties changed between their depositions and their live testimony at trial, the Court finds it difficult to ascribe complete credibility to any witness’ account of the alleged industrial accident. The Court ultimately found Respondent’s witnesses to be more credible, although not entirely convincing, after taking the witnesses’ live testimony, respective demeanors, and the content of their versions of events into account.
A. Johnson v. Liberty [01/05/07] 2007 MTWCC 1 Petitioner claimed to have reported an industrial accident to a supervisor at about the same time as the supervisor left that employment, but no accident report was found. The Court did not find Petitioner’s industrial accident claim credible where Petitioner’s testimony was inconsistent, Petitioner did not describe the accident on the claim form she filed with Respondent, and Petitioner’s extensive contemporary medical records contained no evidence that Petitioner ever claimed that she was injured in a fall at work until nearly two years after she left her employment.
Warren v. State Fund [11/23/04] 2004 MTWCC 77 Based on the Court's observation of the demeanor and testimony of the witnesses at trial, and taking into consideration the claimant's explanation of the circumstances surrounding the filing of her written claim, the Court finds the claimant credible and enters its findings accordingly.

Scozzari v. MSGIA [2/17/04] 2004 MTWCC 7 Based on the Court's observation of the claimant's demeanor, claimant's expressed antipathy towards pursuing a workers' compensation claim, and her subsequent actions, the Court finds claimant's assertion that she dropped a claim off at her employer's office the day after the accident is not credible.