Larson’s Spotlight on Recent Cases: Worker’s Alcohol Consumption and Nap Defeat Claim for Fall Into Elevator Shaft

Larson’s Spotlight on Recent Cases: Worker’s Alcohol Consumption and Nap Defeat Claim for Fall Into Elevator Shaft

Larson's Spotlight on Course of Employment, Jurisdiction, Heart Attack, and Refusal of Medical Treatment. 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.

UT: Claim Fails Where Injury Preceded By Heavy Drinking and a Two-Hour Nap

To support a compensable claim, it is generally not enough for the employee to show that the injury arose within the time and space limits of the employment; he or she must generally be acting in furtherance of the employer's business. It has long been established that work-connected activity goes beyond the direct services performed for the employer and includes at least some flexibility to attend to the personal comfort and human wants of the employee. It would be intolerable and impractical to remove compensation protection from a worker at each momentary rest from the exertions of the job. On the other hand, there are some situations in which the attention and effort of the employee is so far removed from the job that he or she may well have departed from the employment as effectively as if leaving the work premises.

Such was the situation in a recent case from Utah, where the appellate court, citing Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 20.01, held that an employee was not entitled to workers' compensation benefits for an injury he sustained when he fell into an elevator shaft after drinking alcohol at the work site and sleeping in a closet for two hours. He was not acting in the course of his employment under Utah Code Ann. § 34A-2-401(1) (2011).

See Wood v. Labor Comm'n, 2012 UT App 26, 2012 Utah App. LEXIS 27 (Jan. 26, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 20.01.

VA: Phone Call Setting Up Out-of-State Work Is Insufficient to Confer Jurisdiction on Home State

In our world of electronic interconnectedness, it isn't at all uncommon for an employment recruiter to contact a prospective worker from another state to discuss a job to be performed in still another state. When injuries occur away from the worker's home state, the issue arises as to which state-or states-has sufficient contacts with the claim to support jurisdiction. In a recent case from Virginia, an appellate court affirmed a finding by the state's Workers' Compensation Commission that where the only evidence tended to show that all services to be performed by the prospective employee were to be in Delaware, the fact that the worker was a Virginia resident and was contacted via telephone was insufficient to support a Virginia claim.

See Anagua v. Sosa, 2012 Va. App. LEXIS 21 (Jan. 31, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 143.06.

OH: Claim Related to Death of "Poster Child For Heart Disease" Fails; Evidence That Heart Attack Was Work-Related Was Too Speculative

An Ohio appellate court recently affirmed a decision by a county court of common pleas that granted summary judgment to an employer in a death benefits claim filed in connection with the death, from an apparent heart attack, of an employee, whose normal handicap parking space had been blocked by a truck. The decedent, who had a pre-existing heart condition, had earlier undergone coronary bypass surgery, weighed 317 pounds, had a body mass index of 45 (morbidly obese), smoked two packs of cigarettes a day and suffered from a host of other health problems. The decedent was described by one physician as a "poster child for heart disease." The court noted that there was no post-mortem performed and that her physicians indicated it would be speculative to say her heart attack was caused by having to walk the short distance from the remote lot. The decedent's representative failed to present sufficient evidence that the decedent's heart attack was caused by some work-connected activity. For additional discussion, see http://www.workcompwriter.com/ohio-cautious-medical-testimony-dooms-death-benefits-claim-related-to-poster-child-for-heart-disease/.

See Davis v. Ryan, 2012 Ohio 324, 2012 Ohio App. LEXIS 275 (Jan. 31, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 130.06.

OH: Worker's Refusal to Have Surgery Was Reasonable Under Circumstances; Benefits Could Not Be Cut

Because not only the worker, but the employer/carrier, has an interest in a full recovery following a work-related injury, the injured worker generally may not refuse reasonable treatment. What is reasonable depends upon the circumstances, of course. In a recent case from Ohio, the appellate court held that, as the magistrate properly found, that the Industrial Commission did not abuse its discretion in failing to address the employee's refusal to undergo shoulder surgery. None of the doctors could guarantee that the employee's impairment would have been improved. Refusal to undergo surgery was not listed as a ground for denial of PTD compensation under Ohio Admin. Code 4121-3-34(D). Thus, the Commission properly did not second-guess the decision.

See State ex rel. Franklin County Bd. of Comm'rs, v. Industrial Comm'n, 2012 Ohio 279, 2012 Ohio App. LEXIS 232 (Jan. 26, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 10.10.

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

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