Jolt from lightning strike sparks benefits for shoulder injuries
Mixon v. Greywolf Drilling Co., L.P., No. 2009-WC-01536-COA (Miss. Ct. App. 12/14/10).
Ruling: The Mississippi Court of Appeals held that a worker struck by lightning while working was entitled to benefits for his injuries.
What it means: In Mississippi, a presumption of total occupational loss of a member arises only when a worker demonstrates that he has been unable, despite reasonable attempts, to find suitable employment.
Summary: A floorhand on an oil rig was working when a storm blew in. The floorhand was standing over a drainage pit that had begun to overflow due to the rain storm. Lightning struck somewhere close to or on the rig and the floorhand felt electricity go through his body. The floorhand did not see the lightning strike the oil rig, but he heard the crack of the lightning and was "jolted up" and "driven back." His vision became hazy, and he experienced uncontrollable shaking, so he went to the emergency room. Over the next several days, his shoulders began to hurt. He suffered from a torn rotator cuff. The rig terminated his employment the day after the incident. The floorhand began working odd jobs to sustain himself and secured a full-time position on a ship. The floorhand sought benefits. The Mississippi Court of Appeals held that the floorhand was entitled to benefits for his injuries.
The rig argued that there was no causal connection between the floorhand's shoulder injuries and the lightning incident. The court disagreed, stating that multiple doctors testified that the floorhand's shoulder injuries were caused by the lightning strike. Although the doctors assumed that the floorhand was thrown, the floorhand's testimony supported the doctors' opinions.
The floorhand argued that he should be entitled to benefits for a 100 percent occupational loss. The court noted that the floorhand was working in a field of his usual employment based on his past job experience. The court also mentioned that the floorhand's loss of use of his arms was not total because he returned to work on a full-time basis performing work that he was qualified for. Additionally, the work required the use of his arms.
The floorhand also argued that his average weekly wage should be higher. The floorhand's work schedule was seven days on, seven days off, and a 12-hour per day workday. The court found that the floorhand's "off" weeks should be excluded from the calculation of benefits.
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January 24, 2011
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