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Oregon: Court Clarifies Standards in Idiopathic Fall Cases

October 20, 2016 (1 min read)

While a claimant certainly has the burden of proving compensability by a preponderance of the evidence, an injury that is unexplained and occurs in the course of employment is presumed, as a matter of law, to arise out of the employment. Accordingly, it was error for the Board to require that claim eliminate the possibility that her fall had occurred because of an idiopathic condition that she suffered. Indeed, claimant suffered from diabetes, but her physician testified that she had no history of peripheral neuropathy and the physician said her diabetes had “absolutely no role” in her fall. A second physician testified that it was possible idiopathic issues had caused her fall. The ALJ said the second physician’s testimony was speculative, but the Board indicated claimant had not ruled out idiopathic factors. That, said the appellate court, was an incorrect standard. The court added that in the context of an unexplained fall, a claimant must establish that idiopathic factors were less than equally likely as work-related factors to have caused the injury. Noting that the abstract possibility of idiopathic causation always existed, the court said the requirement that a claimant prove that idiopathic factors were less than equally likely to have caused a fall did not mean the claimant had to disprove conclusively any possibility of an idiopathic cause. The legal question was whether claimant had adequately explained why idiopathic factors were not the cause of the injury, not whether claimant had disproved all possible explanations for an unexplained fall.

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.

See Sheldon v. U.S. Bank, 281 Ore. App. 560, 2016 Ore. App. LEXIS 1268 (Oct. 12, 2016)

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 7.04.

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