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Workers' Compensation

Larson’s Spotlight on Recent Cases: Injured HVAC Worker Established “Odd Lot” Status

Larson's Spotlight on Odd Lot, Causation, Farm Laborer, Immunity From Exclusive Remedy. 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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WY: State High Court Finds Injured HVAC Worker Established "Odd Lot" Status

Under the "odd lot" doctrine, applicable in many jurisdictions, a claimant who is not actually permanently totally disabled is nevertheless eligible for permanent total disability benefits if his or her disability, combined with other factors, such as lack of education or transferable skills, lack of broad-based employment experience, age, etc., make the worker de facto unemployable.  The Supreme Court of Wyoming recently reversed a decision of a county district court that had in turn affirmed the denial of permanent total benefits to an HVAC worker who fell nine feet from a beam to a concrete floor and suffered a compression fracture to his L1 vertebrae.  The worker contended he qualified for PT benefits under the "odd lot" rule. The Workers' Safety and Compensation Division did not dispute that the worker could not return to work as an HVAC journeyman, but instead contended that his failure to obtain alternative employment was due to a preexisting psychological condition and a poor effort to find work.  The supreme court, quoting Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, found that the worker had established a prima facie case under the odd lot doctrine when he showed he could not return to his former employment and the combination of his psychological and physical conditions precluded alternative employment.  At that point, the burden shifted to the Division to show that light work of a special nature, which the employee could perform, was available. The court indicated that the Division had presented no evidence of work within the injured worker's capabilities and had not, therefore, met its burden.

See McMasters v. State ex rel. Wyoming Workers' Safety and Comp. Div., 2012 WY 32, 2012 Wyo. LEXIS 33 (Mar. 2, 2012)

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 83.01.

ID: Unless Specifically Stipulated, Causation is Always An Issue

Indicating that it wanted to provide "a clear message" that without a specific stipulation that causation was a contested issue, especially if there was a difference of opinion as to causation by opposing parties and their experts and cautioning that claimant's attorneys should no longer be "lulled by anything other than a stipulation to all legal prerequisites and elements for recovery" and that they should likewise be prepared to present evidence of a causal connection between the industrial injury or sickness and the required medical treatment, the Supreme Court of Idaho recently affirmed a Commission decision that she had failed to prove the medical treatment she received for a back injury was related to an industrial accident and injury.  The court discounted claimant's contention that "she was denied due process" because she was not on notice that she would have to prove a causal connection between her industrial accident and her medical treatment, the court indicated causation was never presumed. Absent a stipulation, claimant was required to establish all the elements of her case.

See Gomez v. Dura Mark, Inc., 2012 Ida. LEXIS 65 (Idaho Mar. 5, 2012)

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 124.06.

DE: Irrigation "Mechanic" is Nevertheless a "Farm Laborer" For Purposes of Agricultural Exclusion From Workers' Compensation

In spite of the fact that a worker presented himself as a mechanic, there was sufficient evidence to support a decision by the state Industrial Accident Board that he was a farm laborer for purposes of Del. Code Ann. tit. 19, § 2307(b)—the farm labor exemption—where the employer used his mechanical expertise to maintain the equipment needed to run the farm.  An occasional repair to the owner's personal vehicle and a minimal amount of time spent in the irrigation shop did not change the fact that the claimant was hired to work on the farm and continued to work on the farm. The evidence from both parties showed that the claimant was a farm laborer. He had been injured while trying to drain the irrigation system, equipment that was crucial to a successful farming operation.

See Lowe v. Vincent Farms, Inc., 2012 Del. Super. LEXIS 84 (Feb. 23, 2012)

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 75.01.

OR: "Member" of Limited Liability Company Is Not Immune Under Exclusive Remedy Provisions of Workers' Comp Act

An Oregon appellate court recently held in relevant part that a member of a limited liability company is not immune from suit by an injured employee of the LLC, that had the Oregon legislature desired to extend immunity to such members, it could easily have done so by statute, as it had done, for example, with regard to corporate directors and others.  The court indicated that members of an LLC should enjoy no greater immunity from suit than partners within a partnership.  Partners had not been shielded from suit; LLC members similarly were not protected.

See Cortez v. NACCO Materials Handling Group, Inc., 2012 Ore. App. LEXIS 200 (Feb. 29, 2012)

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, §§ 111.02, 112.01.

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

Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law

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