Ball v. State of Wyoming, ex rel., No. S-09-0165 (Wyo. 09/22/10).
Ruling: The Wyoming Supreme Court held that a worker was entitled to benefits for a hernia he suffered because the injury occurred in the course of employment.
What it means: Under Wyoming's second compensable injury rule, a subsequent injury is compensable if it is causally linked to the initial compensable work injury. The rule is not a common law remedy, and it can be applied where there is a statute governing a particular injury.
Summary: A worker slipped on a drain cover at work while entering a walk-in refrigerator. He injured his shoulder, neck, back, and right leg. He was awarded total disability benefits and received ongoing benefits for chronic pain, including the implantation of a spinal cord stimulator. The stimulator caused painful side effects the worker described as "a shocking sensation" that occurred without warning. One day, the worker was at home lying in bed when he experienced a shocking sensation that caused him to try to stand up "real fast." He felt cramps in his right leg, and he fell. When he attempted to get up, he felt pain in his groin. An abdominal scan revealed a hernia, and he underwent surgery. The worker claimed that he was entitled to benefits because the development of his hernia was causally related to his original workplace injury. The Wyoming Supreme Court held that the worker was entitled to benefits.
The parties disputed whether the second compensable injury rule applied to a hernia injury. The court found that the rule applied because it expressed the court's interpretation of the causal link required between an employee's work and original work injury and a subsequently developed injury.
The court found that the hernia statute did not require a hernia to be the original injury and occur in the workplace to be compensable. A hernia, like any other injury, is compensable if there is a nexus between the injury and a condition, activity, environment, or requirement of employment. The court reasoned that the medical treatment for the work injury caused the hernia, so the hernia was a compensable second injury.
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December 9, 2010
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