Dental assistant fails to prove work caused her to contract hepatitis C
Pardue v. Dehudy, 23 MIWCLR 48 (Mich. W.C.A.C. 2009).
The Michigan Workers' Compensation Appellate Commission affirmed a magistrate's decision denying benefits to a claimant who alleged she contracted hepatitis C from a patient.
What it means:
Evidence indicating that the claimant has several risk factors for contracting hepatitis C is strong evidence against a finding that work caused the claimant's condition.
Summary: A dental assistant claimed she contracted hepatitis C from her work and sought workers' compensation benefits. Evidence indicated she received a tattoo in high school and worked 21 years as a dental assistant before working for the dentist. The assistant testified she was exposed to blood at work and on occasion was stuck by needles that penetrated her skin even though she wore thick protective gloves. She further claimed she was exposed on numerous occasions to instruments, refuse, needles, and blood from patients that may have contributed to her illness. The commission rejected the assistant's contention that the wrong legal standard was used in evaluating her claim and ruled that she failed to sufficiently prove her hepatitis C was due to the work activities.
The assistant argued that the standard used by the employer's medical expert was applicable in a medical proceeding but not in legal proceedings. The commission nonetheless found the expert's explanation relevant and held his explanation was credible. The commission acknowledged the assistant's failure to report needlesticking incidents and her virus until shortly before she left work due to her illness. Also, medical evidence indicated the assistant had several risk factors, including a tattoo, surgery, body piercing, use of razors and nail clippers, manicures, and unprotected intercourse. The commission found a number of other causes just as likely to transmit hepatitis C and denied an award of benefits to the assistant.
June 8, 2009
Copyright 2009© LRP Publications