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Widow denied survivor benefits after fatal overdose of pain medications - Connecticut

The spouse of a corrections officer who died from an overdose of oxycodone prescribed for a work injury, in combination with another drug, is not entitled to survivor benefits, because the chain of causation between the decedent's compensable injury and his subsequent death was broken, ruled the Connecticut Supreme Court. Acknowledging that the decedent sustained a compensable back injury, for which he was prescribed Oxycodone, and that he was prescribed Seroquel, an antipsychotic medication, for unrelated depression, the high court indicated substantial evidence supported the ruling that the excessive ingestion constituted an intervening event and that the compensable injury was, therefore, not the proximate cause of death.

Employer-approved physician's failure to provide timely care means unauthorized chiropractic care is compensable - Iowa

Under the direction of an employer-approved physician, a hospital employee, who injured his back and underwent surgery, took Tylenol to reduce the pain. When he developed ulcers he stopped the Tylenol and sought payment for chiropractic care, which was denied by the hospital that again directed him to the treating physician.

Noting, "I don't treat pain," the treating physician indicated that an MRI might be needed. This was after three petitions were filed for alternative care and nearly six months after the employee first expressed dissatisfaction with the care.

In a unanimous decision, the Iowa appellate court found that the employee had a right to seek alternate medical care under Iowa Workers' Comp law after he was unable to receive timely treatment from the employer-approved physician.

Accident during trip home to retrieve access card compensable - Nebraska

A janitorial supervisor for a building maintenance company arrived at work, clocked in, and realized he left his lanyard with his identification badge and access card at home and returned home to get them. On his way back to work, he was involved in a serious auto accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury. While the company disputed that the accident arose out of and occurred in the course and scope of the supervisor's employment, the Court of Appeals found he was not traveling home for matters of personal convenience or comfort, but to obtain his access card, which was a necessity arising from his employment.

Injured in a fistfight, employee cannot collect benefits - New York

A New York appellate court ruled that a New York state employee can't collect Workers' Compensation benefits for injuries she suffered in a fistfight with a shuttle bus passenger. The employee was involved in an altercation with a fellow passenger, whom she did not know, on a shuttle bus to a satellite parking lot where their cars were parked. The episode related to the slowness with which the employee was exiting the bus (allegedly due to a disability)

The denial of her request for Workers' Compensation for the injuries and PTSD was upheld by an appellate division of the New York Supreme Court, noting that workplace assaults aren't compensable under New York law if they are "motivated by purely personal animosity."

Worker entitled to Workers' Compensation benefits, though hire not authorized - North Carolina

A worker got a job at a masonry company through an acquaintance employed by the company. The company employee who engaged the worker gave him a ride to work, where the worker saw the employee supervising others on the job.

The injury occurred when the employee who hired him told the worker to clean out a machine, and the worker's hand became caught and was severely damaged. Even after surgery, the hand was not usable.

When the worker asked the company for benefits, the company would not pay, because they said the worker did not actually work for them. The employee who had "hired" him, they claimed, was not authorized to make the hire.

Focusing on the worker's belief that he was hired, the employee's prior practice of occasionally hiring other individuals to temporarily assist at job sites, and the consideration that in fact he was doing work for the company when he was hurt at the work site, the North Carolina Court of Appeals court ruled he was an employee and entitled to benefits.

Computer programmer was no "volunteer" while cutting employer's grass - Oklahoma

The Supreme Court of Oklahoma recently vacated and reversed a decision of the state's Civil Court of Appeals that found a computer programmer's heart attack while performing lawn work for his employer on the employer's premises did not arise in the course of employment. The employer contended that the programmer was a volunteer at the time of the heart attack and was not engaged in employment activity. The high court disagreed, arguing that the employer specifically asked for volunteers to help with the yard work to make the grounds look nice upcoming company event. The programmer and his thirteen-year-old son performed the duties and the employer then hired the programmer's thirteen-year-old son to continue the yard work. While the claimant received no additional pay for the yard work, his son was paid $40.00.

The high court also said that the claimant was not "any other person" performing voluntary service without pay. The claimant was a salaried employee at the time of his injury and was working at his employer's behest, on the employer's premises. The yard work was for the benefit of the employer and was not in furtherance of a personal mission.

State Supreme Court rules subcontractor has statutory employer - Pennsylvania

A truck driver was injured in a vehicle accident in Pennsylvania while transporting tomatoes between a warehouse in Pennsylvania and a processing facility in Maryland. He was not an employee of the grower, but a subcontractor. He argued that the grower who "hired" him was still liable for injury-related compensation benefits.

The truck driver filed claims against his employer, the trucking company, and the grower. After it was determined the trucking company didn't carry Workers' Compensation insurance, he worked his case up the appellate ladder on the theory that the grower was his statutory employer, secondarily liable to pay him benefits. The state Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the grower was "secondarily liable" to pay the Workers' Compensation benefits, finding that, when a company contracts out work which is a "regular or recurrent part of their business," it must provide Workers' Compensation insurance to those workers.

Intoxicated injured worker not entitled to Workers' Comp - Pennsylvania

A worker hurt her left foot, was unable to perform her pre-injury duties and was assigned a light duty job, from which she was fired because she was intoxicated at work. The WCJ awarded Workers' Compensation benefits to the injured worker noting she had not shown any signs of intoxication and her pain medications for the work injury may have impacted the blood alcohol test.

Reversing the decision, the Commonwealth Court ruled whether the injured worker showed signs of intoxication was irrelevant - the blood alcohol test, as found credible by the WCJ, showed that the injured worker was indeed intoxicated (and that the employer had a policy enabling termination for such an offense). Meanwhile, testimony that pain medications "may have" impacted the blood alcohol testing was equivocal and unable to support a finding of fact.

As such, the injured worker could not sustain her burden of proof that her work injury caused her loss of earnings, so disability benefits were properly denied.

Statute of limitations for PTSD claim begins to run at diagnosis, not at the time of traumatic event - Tennessee

In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that the statute of limitations on a Workers' Compensation claim regarding post-traumatic stress disorder did not begin to run until the diagnosis of the condition and not at the time of the original trauma. On June 23, 2008, the employee was diagnosed with PTSD as a result of viewing the bodies of co-workers who had died in work accidents on two separate occasions in February and April 2008. On June 23, 2009, the employee requested a benefit review conference. Since the claim was filed within one-year of the diagnosis, but not within one year of the trauma, a trial court found that the claim was barred on statute of limitations grounds, but the Supreme Court reversed the decision.