Case name: Dynea USA, Inc. v. Fairbanks, No. A141297 (Or. Ct. App. 03/02/11).
Ruling: The Oregon Court of Appeals held that a millwright's methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus infection was a compensable injury.
What it means: In Oregon, to decide whether an infection constitutes a disease, it must be determined whether the condition developed gradually or as the result of a discrete event.
Summary: A millwright was required to wear steel-toed boots while working. While breaking in a new pair of boots, he felt discomfort on his left shin. He noticed a large red area below the top of the boot. He continued working, but the area became increasingly swollen and sore to the point that he had trouble walking. The sore developed into a pustule that broke into a lesion with discharge. The millwright sought medical treatment and was hospitalized with a MRSA infection. The millwright's treating doctor opined that the boot abrasion was the major contributing cause of his need for treatment. The doctor said the millwright was likely colonized by MRSA bacteria before he noticed his symptoms and conceded that the bacteria could have come from anywhere. The Oregon Court of Appeals held that the MRSA infection was a compensable injury.
The employer argued that the infection was an occupational disease. The court consistently distinguishes between diseases and injuries by reasoning that diseases are gradual, rather than sudden, in onset. The court disagreed with the employer's argument that an infection can never be an injury.
The employer next argued that the MRSA condition developed gradually over the course of four days. The court said the fact that the millwright's symptoms grew worse over four days did not make his condition gradual. The millwright's doctor testified that the millwright likely did not have a MSRA infection before the onset of his symptoms. Therefore, his symptoms were sudden, and his condition was considered an accidental injury.
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April 25, 2011
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