A recent Missouri case awarded life-time benefits of nearly $34,000 a year because claimant drank too much, based on a unanimous Commission decision. The case is Harris v. Rebar, released on Nov. 5, 2010. Claimant, 51, settled his repetitive trauma back claim against the employer for 46% BAW, and then cashed in on a second injury fund claim for life-time benefits based in part on alcohol abuse. Claimant’s alcohol addiction caused peripheral neuropathy in claimant’s arm and legs. Claimant reported he drank at times up to 24 beers a day. Claimant was diagnosed about 19 years before the hearing with a history of addiction and abuse of alcohol but he states he had gone sober just a few months before the 2009 hearing. The Commission found that the former iron-worker couldn’t go back to his former job or any other gainful employment, because of chronic back and radicular pain allegedly from handling heavy rebar for 13 years for the employer, a pain disorder, and prior psychiatric conditions. Claimant’s psychiatric expert, Dr. Stillings, indicated that claimant could never work because of his work injury, his mood disorder, pain disorder, personality disorder, illicit drug use and dependency and ongoing alcohol abuse and dependency. The Second Injury Fund provided testimony from a psychiatrist, although ALJ Lane does not identify any findings of fact regarding the expert in his brief award.
Source: Martin Klug, Huck, Howe & Tobin. Read Martin Klug’s Mo. Workers’ Comp Alerts