Workers' Compensation

Utah: High Court Clarifies Direct and Natural Results Test; Second Injury Compensable Only if First Injury Was “Significant Contributing Cause”

 

 

 

 

 

 

A school bus driver, who sustained a compensable back injury in 2003, when he fell down the steps of his school bus could, under an appropriate factual finding, recover additional workers’ compensation benefits when four years later a child jumped on his back and knocked him to the ground at a local festival, but only if the original compensable workplace injury was a “significant contributing cause” of the subsequent injury, held the Supreme Court of Utah. The court clarified its earlier holding in Mountain State Casing Services v. McKean, 706 P.2d 601, 602 (Utah 1985) (per curiam), where the court held the employer liable for a subsequent injury under the “direct and natural results test.” Quoting Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the Court held that the Commission’s award of benefits was erroneous where it used a contributing cause standard. The Court recognized that it was the duty of the courts and the Commission to construe the Workers’ Compensation Act liberally and in favor of employee coverage when statutory terms reasonably admitted of such a construction. Nevertheless, some meaningful level of causal connection must be required; otherwise, the employer becomes the insurer for all subsequent injuries, even those only minimally related to the initial workplace injury. The Court indicated the “significant contributing cause” was such an appropriate standard and remanded the case to the Commission to decide whether the driver’s injury met that clarified standard.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is the co-author of Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law (LexisNexis).

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance. Bracketed citations link to lexis.com.

See Washington County School Dist. v. Labor Comm’n, 2015 UT 78, 2015 Utah LEXIS 224 (Aug. 25, 2015) [2015 UT 78, 2015 Utah LEXIS 224 (Aug. 25, 2015)]

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 10.02 [10.02]

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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