A worker claimed that she was walking through her office taking paperwork to the office manager when she tripped over a telephone cord, which caused her to fall. She landed on her right side and immediately felt pain in her right wrist and hand. Several co-workers, who were also family members, were present when she fell, but they didn't see it happen. The worker's mother, who was also a nurse, recommended that she go home and put ice on her wrist. The worker took her advice and left work.
Before going home, the worker stopped at a photography business that she worked for as a subcontractor. The worker told the owner that she would be unable to photograph a wedding because she fell at work and injured her wrist.
After she arrived home, a co-worker visited to have her sign some contracts. He testified that she seemed in pain and had a bag of frozen vegetables on her wrist.
The worker did not seek medical treatment for her wrist that day. During the night, the worker fell out of bed when she lost her balance. She denied reinjuring her wrist when she fell. Although the worker occasionally had nocturnal seizures, she denied having a seizure that night.
The worker's fiance testified that the worker never told him about her fall at work. He stated that based on his experience with her seizures, he knew that she had a seizure. The fiance called her doctor who suggested that the worker go to the emergency room. Hospital records reflected that the worker suffered from a fractured wrist due to a fall at home.
The worker filed a claim for compensation, alleging that her injury occurred while moving office furniture. The worker presented an orthopedic surgeon's report that stated the fall at work was the "prevailing factor" leading to her injury. The administrative law judge awarded benefits. The Labor and Industrial Relations Commission reversed and denied compensation.
Was the commission correct in denying compensation to the worker?
A. No. The surgeon's report constituted undisputed evidence of medical causation.
B. No. The injury arose out of and in the course of her employment.
C. Yes. The weight of the evidence showed that the wrist fracture occurred at the worker's home.
How the court ruled: C.
The court ruled that the fractured wrist did not arise out of and in the course of employment. Bond v. Site Line Surveying, No. WD72142 (Mo. Ct. App. 10/12/10).
The court noted the disparity between the worker's description of her injury in her claim, where she stated she tripped while moving furniture, and at trial, where she stated she tripped over a telephone cord. The court also stated that the worker had close relationships with witnesses, and the commission chose to give more weight to the fiance's testimony.
A is incorrect. The court stated that the surgeon's report did not constitute undisputed evidence of medical causation. The surgeon's opinion was based on the history provided by the worker and the surgeon's credibility determination, rather than medical judgment.
B is incorrect. The court found that competent and substantial evidence supported the commission's decision.
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December 8, 2010
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