Single day of exposure may exacerbate condition, result in compensable disability
Case name: County Concrete Corp. n/k/a County Materials Corp., et al. v. Labor and Industry Review Commission, et al., No. 2007AP864 (Wis. Ct. App. 10/15/08).
What it means: The fact that a claimant is engaged in duties outside of her normal workload for only one day does not prevent her from receiving compensation when a preexisting condition is exacerbated by those extraordinary activities. Courts focus on whether the exposure or activities materially contributed to the onset or progression of the claimant's disability.
A showroom manager developed pain in her neck, shoulder and arm after unloading and hanging rock and stone samples for about a day. She underwent two surgeries on her spine and was released to work. Although the claimant had neck problems that preexisted the industrial injury, she had not seen a physician for those problems for more than a year before the industrial injury occurred. The Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court that the claimant's activities in setting up the showroom were a "material contributory causative factor in the progression of her pre-existing neck condition." As a result, her disability was compensable.
In reviewing the medical evidence, the LIRC acknowledged that the claimant's exposure to unusual exertion was brief and that she previously exhibited symptoms of a neck disorder. However, it pointed out that the claimant had not been treated for that disorder for over a year before setting up the showroom, and that her condition became "significantly worse after the showroom set up; she ultimately required surgery."
The Court of Appeals rejected the employer's contention that a single day of work exposure could not constitute either an appreciable period of exposure or a material contributory causative factor in the progression of a preexisting neck condition. It cited the LIRC's reasoning that "the law does not require some minimum period of employment exposure or work activity as a matter of law before the exposure may become compensable."
November 20, 2008
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