Mechanic links staph infection to work injury despite diabetes
Case name: Krems v. Ethyl Petroleum Additives, 17 ILWCLB 84 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2009).
The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission awarded benefits to a mechanic who suffered burns to 10 percent of his body in a work accident and subsequently developed a staph infection.
What it means:
A period of more than six months between an employee's work injury and development of a staph infection will not bar a finding of a causal connection, especially where the employee's work accident resulted in open wounds, he was hospitalized, and he suffered from a condition that made him more susceptible to develop a staph infection.
Summary: A general mechanic sustained burns to his abdomen and both arms in a work accident. The mechanic was also a diabetic. More than six months after the accident, the mechanic returned to his doctor with a staph infection in his elbow. He was hospitalized and treated with antibiotics. The mechanic argued that his staph infection was causally connected to his work accident. The employer's doctor testified that that there was no relationship between the development of the condition and the work accident. However, the doctor admitted that the mechanic's diabetic condition made him more susceptible to the development of a staph infection. The commission affirmed and adopted the arbitrator's findings that the mechanic's work accident "might have been or could have been" a cause or one of the causes of the staph infection.
Although the employer's doctor testified that a causal relationship between a staph infection and the accident was impossible, the doctor could not identify a specific time table from colonization of staph bacteria to infection. The commission determined that more than six months between the work injury and the diagnosis of the staph infection was not such an extravagant length of time as to sever a causal connection. The commission affirmed the award of benefits.
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August 20, 2009
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