Case name: Wood v. Labor Commission, Eastern Utah Broadcasting, and Workers' Compensation Fund, No. 20090440-CA (Utah Ct. App. 06/10/10).
Ruling: The Utah Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of mental stress benefits to a worker. She did not show that her work-related stress predominated over her nonwork stress.
What it means: To receive workers' compensation benefits for mental stress in Utah, an employee must show that her work-related stress outweighs her nonwork-related stress.
Summary: An employee made a workers' compensation claim for mental stress related to her employment. A psychological report by a doctor stated that she was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. The report also stated that the routine stresses from work were "probably only a percentage of the total cause of her generalized anxiety disorder." An impartial medical panel opined that 50 percent of her mental condition was related to her employment. The Utah Court of Appeals decided there was substantial evidence showing that the employee's work-related stress was not the predominant cause of her occupational disease, so the claim for benefits was denied.
The employee contended that the medical panel's opinion was flawed because certain factors, including her back pain and headaches, were incorrectly characterized as nonwork-related. The court noted that the medical panel also considered several nonwork-related factors, including the psychological report and her medical history. The court also noted that even if the panel's original determination that 50 percent of her mental condition was work-related was incorrect and should weigh in the employee's favor, additional evidence showed that her employment did not cause more than 50 percent of her stress.
The court also considered her health problems, including a hysterectomy and viral encephalitis, and stressors in her personal life such as her husband's permanent disability.
The court noted that the employee had previously been compensated for workers' compensation claims resulting from a back injury and to treat back pain as work-related would have allowed her to recover twice for the same injury.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
September 7, 2010
Copyright 2010© LRP Publications