Larson’s Spotlight on Recent Cases: Alcohol and Drug Use Did Not Break Chain of Causation

Larson’s Spotlight on Recent Cases: Alcohol and Drug Use Did Not Break Chain of Causation

Larson's Spotlight on Causation, Total Permanent Disability, Viagra, and Substantially Certain. 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.

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WA: Consumption of Alcohol and Multiple Prescription Drugs Did Not Break Chain of Causation Between Industrial Injury and Death

A Washington appellate court recently affirmed an award of survivor benefits to the widow of a decedent who died several years after his industrial injury after accidentally ingesting multiple prescription medications-used to treat pain resulting from his injury-simultaneously with alcohol. Of the substances found in the decedent's blood at the time of death, a doctor had prescribed oxycodone, citalopram, alprazolam, and amitriptyline to deal with the effects of the industrial injury.  The trial court found that there was no evidence to suggest when and in what amounts the decedent took them and no evidence indicated he intentionally abused the medications.  The court indicated that but for the prescription medications, the decedent would not have died. Medical evidence further indicated that neither the drugs nor the alcohol alone would have caused the decedent's death. The court agreed that each, therefore, was a proximate cause of the death. The decedent's decision simultaneously to consume alcohol and his medications did not amount to a supervening cause and did not break the chain of causation between his industrial injury and his death.

See Department of Labor and Indus. v. Shirley, 2012 Wash. App. LEXIS 2639 (Nov. 13, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, §§ 10.04, 38.03.

IA: Total Permanent Disability Found Based Upon Number of Factors, Including Poor English Language Skills

An Iowa appellate court recently affirmed a finding that a 48-year old employee, who had a ninth grade education and limited understanding of English, in spite of having worked within the United States for 34 years, had sustained a 100 percent permanent disability following a wrist and shoulder injury at his work site.  The employer contended that it was not appropriate to consider the injured employee's lack of English language skills in the determination of his disability.  The appellate court indicated that there was adequate evidence to support an award of 100 percent even if the language issue was not considered.  The worker's age, while not "advanced," was a factor to consider.  His lack of experience in anything but manual work was an important factor, since it was undisputed that the employee could no longer lift heavy objects and perform other strenuous duties.  The court noted the employee had difficulty gripping, grasping and reaching.  All these factors limited his ability to work. That he also had English language difficulties was a factor to be considered; it had not been the controlling issue, said the court.

See Merivic, Inc. v. Gutierrez, 2012 Iowa App. LEXIS 970 (Nov. 15, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 83.04.

TX: Claimant Fails to Show Need for Viagra Related to Injury

A Texas appellate court recently found that a pro se claimant failed to produce evidence that would have raised a genuine issue of material fact that the Viagra he took and that had been prescribed for him by his treating physician was causally connected to his work-related injury.  The claimant had sustained back injuries following a fall and was treated for pain and other complaints, but had no discernable physical injuries.  Absent a showing that there was a causal connection between the injury and the need for Viagra, the carrier should not be required to pay the expense of supplying it.

See Castleberry v. New Hampshire Ins. Co., 2012 Tex. App. LEXIS 9401 (Nov. 14, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 94.03.

LA: City's Failure to Supply Special Medical Equipment on its EMT Vehicles Does Not Meet "Substantially Certain" Test

Failure to supply all its EMT vehicles with "quick-trach" kits that might have allowed quicker oxygenation of a city fire department chief who sustained severe trauma injuries, including a fractured neck, when he fell from the top of a ladder truck was not the sort of conduct that was "substantially certain" to cause injury, indicated a Louisiana appellate court recently.  Accordingly, the fire chief's widow failed to state a cause of action for intentional injury against the city that employed her husband.  The court indicated the same could be said for the City's failure to maintain a functional communications network and its failure to utilize all the equipment available in order to treat the fire chief. While the failures might provide grounds for a claim in negligence, absent worker's compensation exclusivity, they did not match the narrow criteria necessary for application of the intentional act exception.

See Adams v. City of Shreveport, 2012 La. App. LEXIS 1459 (Nov. 14, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 103.04.

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

Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law

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