Liver disease resulting from treating work injury is compensable
Mercier v. Bradley Real Estate, No. 103,198 (Kan. Ct. App. 05/13/11, unpublished).
In an unpublished decision, the Kansas Court of Appeals held that a worker was entitled to benefits for liver disease that resulted from his doctor's negligence in treating his primary work-related injury.
What it means: In Kansas, if a worker entitled to workers' compensation suffers a second injury from medical negligence during treatment for the work injury, the second injury is also compensable under workers' compensation because the treatment was a result of the first injury.
Summary: A maintenance supervisor for a mall plaza was working to strip wax off a floor. As he was walking behind a machine, a chemical blew back onto him, soaking his pant legs and feet. That evening, his legs were swollen and red. His family doctor diagnosed him with chemical burns and cellulitis. During treatment, he developed a blood clot in his leg. He was prescribed blood thinners. Subsequently, it was discovered that the supervisor had a genetic condition that predisposed him to blood clotting. The doctor discontinued the use of blood thinners. Later, the supervisor was diagnosed with liver disease. A doctor performing an independent medical examination said that individuals predisposed to blood clotting should be on anticoagulants for life. The Kansas Court of Appeals held that the supervisor was entitled to benefits for his liver disease.
The employer asserted that the supervisor was not subjected to an additional risk of malpractice due to the compensable injury to his legs. The employer said that if the original injury had not occurred, the supervisor would not have received treatment by blood thinners. The court said that in the employer's view, discontinuation of the blood thinners was appropriate treatment for the compensable injury.
The employer said that the doctor's failure to address and treat the unrelated, genetic condition that was not caused or aggravated by the chemical exposure should not be compensable, as it would impose liability on employers for nonwork-related conditions. The court disagreed. The doctor knew of the supervisor's genetic condition. The IME doctor said stopping the anticoagulant therapy led to the development of blood clots, draining the supervisor's liver, and causing the liver disease. The court said it was following a previous case that held that any additional injury arising from medical malpractice in the treatment of a compensable workers' compensation injury is compensable.
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June 30, 2011
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