Employer's efforts to blame accident on unique coughing condition fall short
Case name: Taylor v. Contract Freighters, Inc., et al., No. SD29945 (Mo. Ct. App. 04/08/10).
The Missouri Court of Appeals reversed the denial of a truck driver's claim for benefits. The claimant's injuries arose out of and in the course of his employment and were not caused by an idiopathic coughing condition.
What it means: Under Missouri law, an injury arises out of and in the course of employment if the accident is the prevailing factor in causing the injury, and the injury does not result from a hazard or risk unrelated to the employment. An injury that results directly or indirectly from idiopathic causes -- those that are "peculiar to the individual" -- is not compensable.
Summary: A truck driver was injured when his truck ran off the road. The employer denied coverage for the driver's injuries, claiming that the accident was caused by an idiopathic condition because the driver coughed just before the accident. The Labor and Industrial Relations Commission denied benefits. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the accident arose out of and in the course of the driver's employment and was not attributable to an idiopathic coughing condition.
The court explained that to accept the commission's finding the employer had to present evidence that the cough "was uniquely personal" to the driver. It pointed out that although the driver admitted he had a coughing episode just before the accident occurred, there was no evidence that this particular cough was caused by a chronic coughing condition or was otherwise unique to the claimant.
The court further stated that "the problem with the Commission's analysis is that at any time an employee coughs or sneezes, something so common that it cannot be said to be peculiar to any employee, the burden would be on the employee to prove what caused the cough or sneeze."
Because the employer didn't present any evidence that the claimant's idiopathic coughing condition caused the particular cough on the day of the accident, the commission's decision was erroneous.
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July 12, 2010
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