Griffin v. Absolute Fire Control, Inc.

Erwin Byrd

Contract Amicus Brief Writer

Erwin Byrd started working with NCAJ in January 2020. Her legal career began with a seven-year stint at Legal Aid of North Carolina, where she was a staff attorney for its statewide project, Advocates for Children’s Services. There, she represented children in matters involving special education, access to a constitutionally adequate education, school discipline and Medicaid. Byrd taught school discipline law as an adjunct at North Carolina Central University School of Law and clerked from 2017-2019 for Justice Samuel J. Ervin IV at the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

She is an avid reader, loves writing and enjoys researching all areas of law (with the possible exception of taxation and trusts and estates law). At NCAJ, she is the contracted amicus consultant, who writes and assists in the drafting and filing of amicus briefs in North Carolina state and federal appellate courts. This year, she is the president of her children’s elementary school PTA, and has found that’s about all the extracurricular work she can sustain. Byrd is a graduate of the University of the South in Sewanee in Tennessee and the University of North Carolina School of Law. She, her husband and their two children live in Durham and can often be found at a soccer field or in a lake or river.

Stewart Poisson

Stewart Poisson is a partner with Poisson, Poisson & Bower, PLLC where she practices law with her brother and father. She practices in the firm’s Wilmington and Wadesboro offices, representing plaintiffs in workers’ compensation and personal injury matters. Stewart has litigated numerous cases before juries and the Industrial Commission and also handles cases before the Supreme Court of North Carolina and the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

Stewart received her B.A. from the University of North Carolina in 2001 and received her J.D. with honors from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 2004. In law school, she was an editor on the North Carolina Law Review and received the William T. Joyner Award for Excellence in Journal Writing.

The North Carolina State Bar certified Stewart as a workers’ compensation specialist in 2009 and recertified her in 2014 and 2019. Stewart served as an advisory member of the North Carolina State Bar Ethics Committee from 2014 to 2020 and currently serves as a member of the State Bar’s Workers’ Compensation Specialization Subcommittee and Authorized Practice Committee.

Stewart presents each year on various topics in the field of workers’ compensation for North Carolina Advocates for Justice CLE programs, is a former Chair of NCAJ’s Workers’ Rights Section and is a former chair of NCAJ’s New Lawyer’s Division. She currently serves on NCAJ’s Executive Committee as the organization’s Diversity & Inclusion Officer; she formerly served on NCAJ’s Board of Governors from 2012 to 2017. She is active on NCAJ’s Legal Affairs Committee and has authored numerous amicus briefs for the organization.

Case Link View Now
Opinion Filed March 12, 2021
Attorney for the Case Christian Ayers
Amicus Brief Writers Erwin Byrd Stewart Poisson
Court NC Supreme Court
Docket No. 29A20

This is a workers’ compensation case that involves issues pertaining to disability and suitable employment.  One method that an injured worker may use to prove disability involves a showing that it would be futile due to age, limited education, inexperience or other factors for the injured worker to search for work.  Here, Mr. Griffin continued to work for Absolute in light duty work but alleged that the job was not suitable employment and that he was disabled.  The Full Industrial Commission held that Mr. Griffin presented “no evidence” of futility of jobs search, even though he presented uncontested evidence that he was 49 years of age; had only a ninth grade education; had only ever worked in construction and pipefitting; had restrictions of no lifting greater than 20 pounds, amongst others, which disabled him from pipefitting; and that he needed to leave work at times due to pain.  His treating physician had also recommended vocational rehabilitation which the Commission found had not yet been provided. 

The Commission also found that the employer had suitable employment available to Mr. Griffin that was not make work, even though the employer testified that Mr. Griffin would probably be discounted from being hired by Absolute absent a recommendation from a current employee.  Mr. Griffin appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for further findings in a divided opinion.  13 defense amici joined to file an amicus brief in support of the defense at the Supreme Court.  NCAJ has filed an amicus brief in favor of Mr. Griffin on the issues of disability and suitable employment.  The Court also granted PDR on the issue of whether Mr. Griffin proved disability through a reasonable yet unsuccessful job search.