Larson’s Spotlight on Recent Cases: Employee Sustained Psychic Injury When Told She Owed Tax on $100,000 of Travel Reimbursements

Larson's Spotlight on Psychic Injury, AMA Guides, Traveling Employee, and Subrogation. Larson's surveys the latest case developments that you need to know about. Thomas A. Robinson, the staff writer for Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, has compiled the list below.

   

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New York: Employee Sustained Psychic Injury When Told She Owed Tax on $100,000 of Travel Reimbursements

New York has a special statute, N.Y. Work. Comp. Law § 2 (7), that disallows workers’ compensation benefits for psychic injury stemming from work-related stress if the psychic injury was "a direct consequence of a lawful personnel decision involving a disciplinary action, work evaluation, job transfer, demotion, or termination taken in good faith by the employer." A state appellate court, in a divided decision, recently affirmed an award of benefits to an employee who sustained a psychic injury when she learned that a Comptroller’s audit of her employer’s reimbursement practices indicated she would be deemed to have earned an additional $100,000 in income—upon which she would owe taxes. Stressing that the employee had not been accused of wrongdoing by the employer and that the employee’s mental injuries stemmed from the serious financial liabilities she incurred as a result of a review of the employer's reimbursement practices, the court indicated that since the audit was not "aimed at" the employee, substantial evidence supported the Board's determination that her resulting mental injury was not the direct consequence of a disciplinary action or work evaluation.  The appellate court also declined to disturb the Board's determination that the stress that the employee experienced was greater than that generally experienced by similarly situated workers in a normal work environment.

See Brittain v. New York St. Ins. Dep’t, 2013 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 4772 (June 27, 2013) [2013 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 4772 (June 27, 2013)].

 See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 56.04 [56.04].

Vermont: AMA Guides Required for Rating Degree of Impairment, Not For Making Diagnosis Itself

The Supreme Court of Vermont, in a divided decision, recently held that while the language of Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 21, § 648(b) was clear: that the AMA Guides (5th Ed.) are determinative with respect to "any determination of the existence and degree of permanent partial impairment" associated with an injury, nowhere did the statute state that the Guides provided the exclusive mechanism for determining the existence of, or diagnosis associated with, a compensable injury.  To the extent, therefore, that Chapter 16 of the Guides purported to establish fixed criteria for diagnosing Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)—as opposed to a method for rating the impairment associated with that condition—Vermont’s  PPD benefits statute did not “imbue those criteria” with the force of law.  Accordingly, the workers' compensation laws did not preclude an impairment rating and associated award of PPD benefits to an injured worker on account of impairment associated with CRPS where the claimant was not diagnosed with CRPS under the criteria listed in Chapter 16 of the Guides, but where a qualified expert confirmed the existence of the condition pursuant to other legally admissible standards sufficient to meet a reasonable medical certainty.

See Brown v. W.T. Martin Plumbing & Heating, 2013 VT 38, 2013 Vt. LEXIS 39 (June 21, 2013) [2013 VT 38, 2013 Vt. LEXIS 39 (June 21, 2013)].

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 80.07 [80.07].

Illinois: Bank Employee Deemed a Traveling Employee for Injuries Sustained in Public Parking Lot

An Illinois appellate court recently reversed a finding by the state’s Industrial Commission and held that injuries sustained by a bank employee who, as he attempted to avoid an oncoming car, stepped in a pothole and fell as he exited a municipal parking lot were compensable.  Applying the traveling employee rule, the court observed that the Commission had determined that the employee’s duties required that he travel from one bank branch to another and that travel was, therefore, an essential element of the employee’s job.  The court concluded that an injury sustained by a traveling employee arises out of his employment if he is injured while engaging in conduct that is reasonable and foreseeable, i.e., conduct that might normally be anticipated or foreseen by the employer. Since the employer did not provide parking at the bank branch, it was reasonable that the employee would seek out a spot in the nearby municipal lot and walk to the bank.

See Kertis v. Illinois Workers’ Comp. Comm’n, 2013 Ill. App. LEXIS 410 (June 18, 2013) [2013 Ill. App. LEXIS 410 (June 18, 2013)].

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 25.01 [25.01].

Truck Driver’s Injuries Not Covered by Michigan No-Fault Act, Comp Carrier Entitled to Lien for Compensation Outlay

A federal district court recently held that injuries sustained by a long haul truck driver when he fell while existing the passenger door of a truck that his employer leased from defendant did not fall within Michigan’s No-Fault Automobile Act in spite of the fact that the no-fault act provides for economic benefits to be paid for injuries sustained from "occupying, entering into, or alighting from [a parked] vehicle" [Mich. Comp. Laws 500.3106(1)(c)]. The court observed that for injuries sustained in the course of employment, the no-fault statute did not apply unless, among other things, the injury was sustained while entering into or alighting from the vehicle immediately after the vehicle became disabled.  The court added that at the time of his injury, the driver was fulfilling an obligation of his job—checking the truck to ensure that it was ready for his trip. Thus, he was not injured by a "motor vehicle disability." Moreover, the truck was not being used as a motor vehicle. Accordingly, since the no-fault act not apply, the subrogation provisions of the Michigan Workers’ Compensation Disability Act did apply and the employer’s workers’ compensation carrier was entitled to a lien of approximately $75,000, after deducting the driver’s expenses in creating the recovery fund.

See Trueblood v. Ryder Truck Rental, Inc., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88778 (E.D. Mich., June 25, 2013) [2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88778 (E.D. Mich., June 25, 2013)].

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 117.01 [117.01].

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law.

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