MO: Police Chief Awarded Disability For Wiping Car Window

A police chief who describes acute neck pain after wiping the inside window of his unmarked police car performed "integral" police work under Missouri law.  Whiteley v City of Poplar Bluff, No. SD 31287 (Mo. App. Oct. 11, 2011), affirmed an award of medical and PPD benefits from the Commission, which had reversed a denial of benefits from the ALJ. (Lexis.com subscribers can access the Lexis enhanced version of the Whiteley v. City of Poplar Bluff, 2011 Mo. App. LEXIS 1329 (Mo. Ct. App. Oct. 11, 2011) decision with summary, headnotes, and Shepard's).

The court of appeals found that wiping a window in 2006 was "integral" to claimant's job based a job description for patrol officers and on claimant's testimony that clean windows were important for city image and safety reasons.  By concluding the job duties were "integral" the court found it unnecessary to address if claimant had equal exposure in normal non-employment life.   The court concluded claimant's prior degenerative neck disease was "asymptomatic":  Claimant's prior history of "whiplash" and bull-riding injuries meant thoracic and not cervical injury and years of chiropractic adjustments to his neck did not establish prior "symptoms."  The court concluded that  strict construction created an exception to the  statutory presumption that a prior settlement was presumed to continue undiminished when a prior settlement for the "neck" also included the "back and shoulders" but did not specifically apportion disability to the neck.

The court noted claimant subsequently received treatment for a heart infection that required surgery and a cerebral hemorrhage.  The 63-year old claimant testified he recovered from those non-occupational conditions, but he still experienced constant neck pain. 

Source: Martin Klug, Huck, Howe & Tobin. Read Martin Klug's Mo. Workers' Comp Alerts.

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