Preexisting condition combined with work injury to cause disability
Case name: Treasurer of the State of Missouri v.
Steck, No. WC73110 (Mo. Ct. App. 05/31/11).
Ruling: The Missouri Court of Appeals held that a worker was permanently and totally disabled due to the combination of a work-related injury and a preexisting condition, resulting in liability for the second injury fund.
What it means: In Missouri, in order for the second injury fund to be liable, a worker must show that his preexisting condition "represented an obstacle or hindrance" to his ability to work.
Summary: A maintenance worker sustained an injury to his lower back while carrying a paint spray machine. He reported the injury to his employer but continued working the rest of the day. Over the next several days, the pain worsened so that the worker could not sleep. He sought medical treatment and workers' compensation benefits. The worker had a preexisting injury to his right knee, so he also filed a claim against the second injury fund. The Missouri Court of Appeals held that the worker was permanently and totally disabled due to the combination of his preexisting injury and his work injury, so the fund was liable.
The court noted that the fund did not dispute that the worker was permanently and totally disabled. An independent medical examiner and a vocational rehabilitation specialist both opined that the work-related injury alone did not result in the worker being permanently and totally disabled. The experts' opinions were uncontradicted. The court said the evidence supported a determination that the work-related injury resulted in only a permanent partial disability.
The worker was also required to show that his preexisting disability "represented an obstacle or hindrance" to his ability to work. After reviewing the worker's work and educational history, the vocational specialist said the worker's knee and back problems combined to require restrictions on standing and sitting, and the knee problem necessitated further restrictions from working in extreme temperatures and around vibrations. The worker said that his prior knee injury remained a problem for him up to the point of his work-related injury.
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June 23, 2011
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