Case name: Hirsi v. Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc., No. 103,760 (Kan. Ct. App. 01/07/11, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished opinion, the Kansas Court of Appeals held that a widow was not entitled to surviving spouse benefits because evidence did not establish that the worker suffered a work-related injury that caused his death.
What it means:
Kansas courts are reluctant to award surviving spouse benefits when there is no evidence of any physical injury that occurred while working.
Summary: A worker who had tuberculosis was working in a slaughterhouse when he began spitting up blood. He allegedly told a coworker that he thought he had been kicked by a cow. The worker was taken to the emergency room but was dead on arrival due to a pulmonary hemorrhage. The report that he had been kicked by a cow was included in medical records. A doctor who performed an autopsy noted no external evidence of a kick. Three doctors agreed that a kick from a cow could have triggered the worker's hemorrhage and blood clot, but it could have been caused by his tuberculosis alone. The worker's widow sought surviving spouse benefits. The Kansas Court of Appeals held that the widow was not entitled to benefits.
The doctors noted that the worker did not suffer bruising, fractured ribs, a collapsed lung, bleeding around the lung, or bleeding around the heart, which would be obvious evidence of the trauma of being kicked by a cow. The court also mentioned that no one at the slaughterhouse saw the worker get kicked. His nearest coworker was 4 feet away and only saw him bent over and spitting blood. While the slaughterhouse admitted there was a risk of being kicked in the worker's job, the worker's clothing and gear did not have visible markings, such as hoof marks, mud, or blood that would indicate a cow kick.
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February 14, 2011
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