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Workers' Compensation

Larson’s Spotlight on Recent Cases: Employer Not Responsible for Unrelated Coronary Bypass Surgery

Larson's Spotlight on Medical Treatment for Unrelated Condition, Going and Coming, Statute of Limitations for Misdiagnosed Condition, and Exclusive Remedy Rule. 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.

VA: Employer Not Responsible for Unrelated Coronary Bypass Surgery Required Before Injured Worker Could Have Hernia Repaired

For most workers' compensation purposes, the employer takes the employee as it finds him or her. That is to say that in most cases, if a worker has an independent medical condition that must be treated in order to treat successfully the work-related injury or condition, then the employer must also treat that independent condition [see Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 10.02]. A recent case from Virginia illustrates a limitation to that rule, however. A state appellate court held that the employer was not responsible for coronary bypass surgery that was completely unrelated to the injured employee's inguinal hernia. The coronary problem was discovered during a pre-operative clearance evaluation prior to the hernia surgery. When the employee failed a stress test, he underwent cardiac catheterization and, later, coronary bypass surgery. After he recovered from the cardiac surgery, the employee had the hernia successfully repaired. The employee sought payment not only for the hernia repair, but also for the cardiac treatment and surgery. A deputy commissioner concluded that the employer was responsible for treatment of claimant's heart condition, but the commission reversed, concluding that holding an employer responsible for every unrelated condition which required treatment before the compensable injury could be treated, regardless of whether treatment for the unrelated condition was needed independent of treating the compensable injury, contradicted the Workers' Compensation Act's objectives. The appellate court agreed with the commission, indicating Va. Code § 65.2-603(A) did not require the employer to cover treatment of medical conditions that were completely unrelated to the compensable injury or disease.

See Haftsavar v. All American Carpet and Rugs, Inc., 2012 Va. App. LEXIS 44 (Feb. 14, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, §§ 10.02, 94.02.

MD: Courtroom Bailiff's Injuries in Auto Accident After Traveling Home to Change Soiled Tie Did Not Arise From the Employment

A courtroom bailiff, who initially realized he might be wearing an inappropriately colorful tie for courtroom duties-it was a bright Christmas tie-and then spilled coffee on the tie and decided to go home to change it, did not sustain a compensable injury in an automobile accident as he traveled back to the courthouse to resume his duties, held a Maryland appellate court recently. The court held the claim was barred by the going and coming rule and that the special mission exception to that rule did not apply. Nor did the dual-purpose exception apply since he did not have the express or implied authority to leave work; he did not get permission from his supervisor. Finally, the court turned down the last of the bailiff's claims of special exception-this one under the personal comfort rule-finding that any benefit that he derived from his trip home was not of mutual benefit to the employer, particularly since the employer did not know he was attending to a personal comfort.

See Garrity v. Injured Workers' Ins. Fund, 2012 Md. App. LEXIS 11 (Feb. 9, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, §§ 13.01, 16.01, 21.01.

NY: Injured Worker's Claim Not Time-Barred When Original Condition Was Misdiagnosed

A worker who initially was diagnosed with groin strain and who later, after the applicable time period had passed for filing a claim, was told by an orthopedic surgeon that the worker's condition had been misdiagnosed, that he had instead suffered a right hip injury as a result of the industrial accident, could recover benefits for the more serious injury. The court indicated the worker could hardly have filed a claim for causally-related hip injuries until the condition was properly identified and diagnosed. Accordingly, it was not time-barred.

See In the Matter of the Claim of Searchfield v. Lowe's Home Ctrs., Inc., 2012 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 896 (Feb. 9, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 126.05.

FL: Construction Company's Prior Denial of Employee Status in Workers' Comp Claim May Mean Company Is Barred From Defending Subsequent Tort Action on Exclusivity Grounds

A Florida appellate court recently reversed a trial court's order granting partial summary judgment in favor of a construction company that had been sued for negligence in connection with the injuries sustained by a worker at the construction site. The construction company had earlier denied responsibility for a workers' compensation claim on multiple grounds, including its contention that no employee-employer relationship existed. Eight months later, the worker dismissed the workers' compensation claim and filed the negligence action. The company defended on exclusivity grounds. The appellate court indicated that the company could not at one point deny the employment relationship and then later stand on it. Issues of fact precluded the grant of summary judgment. Summary judgment was appropriate for another defendant who had not made such an inconsistent earlier statement.

See Mena v. J.I.L. Constr. Group Corp., 2012 Fla. App. LEXIS 2281 (4th Dist., Feb. 15, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, §§ 111.04, 127.07.

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

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